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 constrain (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 New rules will constrain tournaments to cool water periods of May, June, September and October, minimizing hooking mortality. Tony Kennedy, Star Tribune, "Walleye harvest a central topic as DNR lays out five-year plan for Mille Lacs," 25 Mar. 2021 The market forces that will constrain the Ravens’ spending this offseason are the same ones that led them to their biggest addition of 2021. Jonas Shaffer,, "As free agency nears, Ravens stick to roster-building philosophy — for better or worse," 16 Mar. 2021 Already, some East Asian countries, including South Korea and China, are struggling to constrain real-estate bubbles in major cities, despite tighter mortgage rules. William Pesek, Forbes, "Covid-19’s $24 Trillion Cost (So Far) Means Economics Will Never Be The Same," 26 Feb. 2021 American policymakers have long struggled to constrain Saudi Arabian human rights abuses, given Riyadh’s strategic importance to the U.S. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Blinken gives Saudis rebuke and reassurance ahead of Khashoggi report," 25 Feb. 2021 The best women’s rain boots for wide feet won’t constrain your toes or rub painfully on the sides of your feet or backs of your ankles. Outdoor Life, "Best rain boots for women: Keep your feet dry in soggy conditions," 25 Jan. 2021 The Progressive Era, in which legislation was enacted to constrain the robber barons of the time, was cut short by World War I. Robert Kuttner, The New York Review of Books, "Dividends of a Just Economy," 13 Apr. 2021 Of course, if Biden does take action to severely constrain US production, that could eventually lead to higher oil prices down the line. Matt Egan, CNN, "Here comes $3 gas, just as Americans start traveling again," 23 Mar. 2021 True, the attorney general’s guidelines constrain FBI investigations against domestic terrorism. Thomas J. Baker, WSJ, "Today’s Laws Can Handle Homegrown Terror," 10 Mar. 2021

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

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Constrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for constrain



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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Comments on constrain

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