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 But even in this constrained present, the parents’ hopes are invested in the future of their children. Lydia Wilson, The New York Review of Books, "Among Syria’s Exiles in Jordan," 8 Jan. 2020 The government will be constrained from making investments. Diego Mendoza-moyers,, "Trump tax cuts boosted Texas economy in 2018 — but at a long-term cost?," 6 Jan. 2020 Some maintain that she is severely constrained by a political system where civilian power remains circumscribed by the still-powerful military—the generals, and not the civilian government, control internal security, defense and borders. Isabella Steger, Quartz, "What you need to know about Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s genocide court hearing," 8 Dec. 2019 Selling your home can be downright frightening, particularly if you are constrained by time or money. Shannon Cobb Evans, Houston Chronicle, "Realtor View: What should you do to help sell your home?," 9 Nov. 2019 Multiple provisions of the state Constitution explicitly constrain the power of local governments to raise taxes. Dan Walters, Orange County Register, "Tax vote issue gets cloudier," 12 Sep. 2019 Multiple provisions of the state Constitution explicitly constrain the power of local governments to raise taxes. Dan Walters, The Mercury News, "Walters: California’s two-thirds vote requirement issue gets cloudier," 12 Sep. 2019 The 9th Circuit’s decision also constrained how Newport Beach and other municipalities throughout California and other Western states can clear homeless people from the streets. Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot, "Senior-living project at former art museum site advances after Newport council approvals," 14 Aug. 2019 Things weren’t as constrained, and while storage was still expensive, going from, say, an 80-byte record to 82 bytes was certainly doable. Eric Spitznagel, Popular Mechanics, "‘Here We Go. The Chaos Is Starting’: An Oral History of Y2K," 27 Dec. 2019

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

24 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Constrain.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 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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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).


dull or mediocre

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