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

However, like its neighbor to the north, the Mexican city is becoming land constrained and developers are more frequently turning to redeveloping existing structures — without the pressure of lawsuits. Phillip Molnar,, "Building up, instead of tearing down, in Tijuana," 2 July 2018 The rules and realities that constrain Gibb still shock. Susan Faust, San Francisco Chronicle, "Roundup of new children’s books, March 25," 22 Mar. 2018 Almost all bitcoin mining happens in China and is controlled by a few firms (although the government is now trying to constrain the energy-hungry industry). The Economist, "Raiders of the killer dappBlockchain technology may offer a way to re-decentralise the internet," 28 June 2018 But the arm-twisting is meeting resistance in parts of Europe, especially among allies who helped negotiate and sign the disarmament accord and want to sustain it to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Tracy Wilkinson,, "Trump administration threatens sanctions against countries that import Iranian oil," 26 June 2018 The gaming retailer is selling physical copies for just 12 cents, but act fast, because stocks appear to be severely constrained. Ian Paul, PCWorld, "Get ready for all the new E3 games with a 29-inch LG UltraWide display for less than $200," 11 June 2018 The groups operating under the Koch banner have also run ads against Republican members of Congress for not doing more to constrain federal spending. Philip Elliott, Time, "Billionaire Industrialist David Koch Retires From Business and Politics," 5 June 2018 Tech experts urge users to take a second to constrain sites' use of your personal data. USA TODAY, "What happens to Trump's odds for a Nobel after North Korea?," 24 May 2018 Since 2017, the United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is the capital, has taken part in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries program to constrain output to prop up prices., "A Mideast Energy Giant Seizes New Energy Future," 10 May 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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Phrases Related to constrain

feel constrained

Statistics for constrain

Last Updated

19 Sep 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).


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