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 On Iran, though, the charge that Biden’s policies are soft may have a better chance of sticking — in part because his nuclear deal won’t constrain Iran’s behavior on other issues. Los Angeles Times, 23 June 2021 Tech leaders, in turn, are suddenly aghast at the package of bills passed by the House Judiciary Committee last week designed to substantially constrain the industry's most profitable companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Star Tribune, 4 July 2021 But planting our flag on 19 U.S. airmen buried in 1996 to constrain the current president’s options is not necessarily wise advice. WSJ, 30 June 2021 OpenAI’s project shows how the tech industry is scrambling to constrain the dark side of a technology that’s shown enormous potential but also can spread disinformation and perpetuate biases. Khari Johnson, Wired, 17 June 2021 Facing legal challenges to such measures, often by civil society groups, his governments began attacking and seeking to constrain the judiciary as well. Dahlia Scheindlin, Time, 8 June 2021 The Arab party will be part of a centrist-left bloc in the government, including Lapid's large Yesh Atid party, that is expected to constrain any far-right steps against Palestinians in the West Bank. Conor Finnegan, ABC News, 5 June 2021 Given the reality that Mr. Biden is removing all American troops by Sept. 11, diplomatic and financial pressure remain among the few tools the United States can use to constrain the Taliban. Michael Crowley, New York Times, 23 Apr. 2021 President Biden wants to seek a wider agreement with Iran that would constrain not only its nuclear program, but also its missile development and its involvement in conflicts around the region. New York Times, 28 May 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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Last Updated

23 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Constrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 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.

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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