verb con·strain \kən-ˈstrān\

Definition of constrain

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to force by imposed stricture, restriction, or limitation Teenagers often feel constrained by rules. an artist constrained by a client's requirementsb :  to restrict the motion of (a mechanical body) to a particular mode

  3. 2 :  compress; also :  to clasp tightly

  4. 3 :  to secure by or as if by bonds :  confine constrained to a dungeon; broadly :  limit

  5. 4 :  to force or produce in an unnatural or strained manner a constrained smile

  6. 5 :  to hold back by or as if by force “ … constraining my mind not to wander from the task.” — Charles Dickens


play \kən-ˈstrā-nəd-lē, -ˈstrānd-lē\ adverb

Examples of constrain in a Sentence

  1. constrained by conscience to tell only the truth

  2. constrained his anger at the needless interruption

Recent Examples of constrain from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of constrain

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

CONSTRAIN Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of constrain for English Language Learners

  • : to limit or restrict (something or someone)

  • : to use pressure to force (someone) to do something

CONSTRAIN Defined for Kids


verb con·strain \kən-ˈstrān\

Definition of constrain for Students




  1. 1 :  compel 1, force He was constrained to retire because of ill health.

  2. 2 :  to restrict or limit She felt the rules constrained her creativity.

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done merely as a duty

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