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

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 What all of this means is that, the next time a climate-skeptical president takes office, advocates will have fewer tools to constrain their behavior than last time. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 11 May 2022 Russia normally supplies roughly 40% of Europe’s natural gas needs, but Putin seized on the opportunity to constrain deliveries during the fall and early winter. David Blackmon, Forbes, 28 Jan. 2022 The plan won’t necessarily be to try to constrain the economy by withdrawing support so rapidly that Fed policy becomes a big drag on growth — the equivalent of slamming the brakes. New York Times, 14 Dec. 2021 Local resistance, regulatory constraints and building costs continue to constrain supply. Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 July 2021 Very few laws in the US even relate to data brokers, let alone constrain their actions. WIRED, 2 Sep. 2022 While there are plenty of valid reasons to constrain executive power and diminish the temptation of corruption, in advocating for the electoral system, the slaveholding South held significant sway. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, 5 Apr. 2022 But, today, far too many people in America want to constrain public discourse to what is socially acceptable at that particular moment in time. Garry Kasparov, CNN, 8 Nov. 2021 That’s the target all major economies must meet, scientists say, for the planet to constrain average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Henry Fountain,, 11 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

21 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Constrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for constrain


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on constrain

Nglish: Translation of constrain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of constrain for Arabic Speakers


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