con·​strain | \kən-ˈstrān \
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 , -​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

The second approach is to constrain the array elements accessed so that, for example, any attempt to speculatively access an element that doesn't exist is always directed at the first element of the array. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "New Spectre-like attack uses speculative execution to overflow buffers," 10 July 2018 By forcing the hand of its trade partners, the Trump administration has shifted the exchange onto a field where there are few rules to constrain state behavior. Krzysztof J. Pelc, Washington Post, "The U.S. broke a huge global trade taboo. Here’s why Trump’s move might be legal.," 7 June 2018 In his words and actions, Trump has shown little patience for unwritten norms and customs that have acted to constrain the authority of his office over the last two centuries. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Trump's above-the-law presidency," 4 June 2018 But any other potential clashes between the candidates were constrained by the no-rebuttal format. Michael Dresser,, "Pot, polls and pizza: Maryland Democratic candidates for governor end debate on high note," 14 June 2018 The atmosphere around the North leader was constrained. Matthew Pennington, The Seattle Times, "Tough talk: US envoys on how to negotiate with North Korea," 9 June 2018 If women’s clothing constrained them, so did their role in society. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Wheel, the Woman, and the Human Body," 6 July 2018 With San Francisco development constrained by Proposition M, the city’s 1980s cap on office-space approvals, Oakland appears poised to seize a greater share of Bay Area job growth. Roland Li,, "Eastline, bigger than Salesforce Tower, wants to transform Oakland," 6 July 2018 Such pockets of slack might constrain wages everywhere now that goods are produced in international supply chains and sold on global markets. The Economist, "The rich world needs higher real wage growth," 30 June 2018

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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Statistics for constrain

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for constrain

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

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More Definitions for constrain



English Language Learners Definition of constrain

: to limit or restrict (something or someone)

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


con·​strain | \kən-ˈstrān \
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

What made you want to look up constrain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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