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 The national-security law’s passage showed the Communist Party’s determination to constrain a Western style of governance that has made the city a center for commerce in East Asia. James T. Areddy And Chun Han Wong, WSJ, "China’s Security Law Tightens Vise on Hong Kong," 1 July 2020 Finally, the passage of a US bill such as LAEDA would not constrain service providers in foreign countries. Jim Salter, Ars Technica, "Graham, Cotton introduce yet another attempt to torpedo encryption," 24 June 2020 Growing anti-China sentiment in India has led to calls for a boycott of Chinese products and services, while new rules on foreign investment could constrain China's ability to cash in on India's internet boom. Julia Horowitz, CNN, "The retail recovery looks extremely vulnerable. Here's why," 17 June 2020 Since then, Republicans have insinuated without evidence that legislation to constrain carbon will idle factories and slow down the economy, just like Covid-19. Ari Natter,, "Clean Energy Executives Worry Democrats Have Abandoned Them," 14 June 2020 In their view, these sweeping, warrantless surveillance measures violated post-Watergate federal laws that constrained domestic wiretaps by U.S. intelligence agencies. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Bill Barr’s Invisible Crusade," 8 June 2020 If the virus hurts the construction and sale of PCs, that would constrain demand for Microsoft’s Windows operating system software. Dina Bass,, "Microsoft Profit, Sales Beat as Cloud Demand Persists," 10 May 2020 Many democracies have tried, not always with success, to build legal barriers that constrain authorities’ ability to access and exploit the personal information collected by private companies. Allie Funk, Wired, "Fighting Covid-19 Shouldn't Mean Abandoning Human Rights," 9 Apr. 2020 Policy makers exempted those purchases from most of the rules that constrain earlier programs, allowing them to better help stressed economies such as Italy and Greece. Fortune, "Divided Europe—EU finance chiefs fail to agree on coronavirus bailout funding after marathon meeting," 8 Apr. 2020

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

10 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Constrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 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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