con·​strain | \ kən-ˈstrān How to pronounce constrain (audio) \
constrained; constraining; constrains

Definition of constrain

transitive verb

1a : to force by imposed stricture, restriction, or limitation Teenagers often feel constrained by rules. an artist constrained by a client's requirements
b : to restrict the motion of (a mechanical body) to a particular mode
2 : compress also : to clasp tightly
3 : to secure by or as if by bonds : confine constrained to a dungeon broadly : limit
4 : to force or produce in an unnatural or strained manner a constrained smile
5 : to hold back by or as if by force " … constraining my mind not to wander from the task."— Charles Dickens

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Other Words from constrain

constrainedly \ kən-​ˈstrā-​nəd-​lē How to pronounce constrainedly (audio) , -​ˈstrānd-​lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for constrain

force, compel, coerce, constrain, oblige mean to make someone or something yield. force is the general term and implies the overcoming of resistance by the exertion of strength, power, or duress. forced to flee for their lives compel typically suggests overcoming of resistance or unwillingness by an irresistible force. compelled to admit my mistake coerce suggests overcoming resistance or unwillingness by actual or threatened violence or pressure. coerced into signing over the rights constrain suggests the effect of a force or circumstance that limits freedom of action or choice. constrained by conscience oblige implies the constraint of necessity, law, or duty. felt obliged to go

Examples of constrain in a Sentence

constrained by conscience to tell only the truth constrained his anger at the needless interruption
Recent Examples on the Web Significant internal weaknesses, including an aging population, inequality, brittle governance, and slowing economic growth, constrain China’s ambitions. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Fueling US-China clash, years of disconnects," 2 Oct. 2020 Shutdowns to constrain the spread of the virus had large impacts on sales in March through June, but beginning in July, that trend morphed into a V-shaped recovery for the industry. Colin Beresford, Car and Driver, "Third-Quarter New-Vehicle Sales Are Encouraging, Hint at Recovery," 1 Oct. 2020 What’s less clear is how anything might change in the U.S. over the next few months, because public-health officials have long been saying that these things were necessary to constrain the virus. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "Fauci to a Meddling HHS Official: ‘Take a Hike’," 23 Sep. 2020 But this deal feels like it’s about the data center, specifically how to help Nvidia eliminate or seriously constrain Intel’s headway in the chips inside the servers that host the internet, our mobile apps, and pretty much everything else out there. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "When it comes to A.I., worry about ‘job churn’ instead of ‘job loss’," 15 Sep. 2020 In The Upswing, Putnam and Garrett apply the same mode of analysis to a period in the history of the United States, searching for the features of public life that enable—or constrain—the functioning of democracy. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "From I to We," 17 Sep. 2020 Behind the scenes, that very issue—how to constrain models, and then communicate them—had already inspired one of Reilly’s most ambitious and divisive efforts at the agency. Adam Federman, Wired, "The Trump Team Has a Plan to Not Fight Climate Change," 15 Sep. 2020 To simply equate the constitutional and the legal is to radically constrain the scope of our politics, and ultimately to evade essential duties. Yuval Levin, National Review, "What Is Our Constitution?," 17 Sep. 2020 Reilly’s own efforts to constrain the use of models have been insistent, and his steadfast aversion to the long view seems also to apply to USGS itself. Adam Federman, Wired, "The Trump Team Has a Plan to Not Fight Climate Change," 15 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'constrain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of constrain

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for constrain

Middle English, from Anglo-French constraindre, from Latin constringere to constrict, constrain, from com- + stringere to draw tight — more at strain

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Time Traveler for constrain

Time Traveler

The first known use of constrain was in the 14th century

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Statistics for constrain

Last Updated

14 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Constrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for constrain


How to pronounce constrain (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of constrain

: to limit or restrict (something or someone)
formal : to use pressure to force (someone) to do something


con·​strain | \ kən-ˈstrān How to pronounce constrain (audio) \
constrained; constraining

Kids Definition of constrain

1 : compel sense 1, force He was constrained to retire because of ill health.
2 : to restrict or limit She felt the rules constrained her creativity.

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