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 intention, the President said, was to drive Tehran to negotiate a better deal that would constrain its proxy militias, missile capability and nuclear proliferation. Brian Bennett, Time, "The Downsides to President Trump's 'Dare Me' Doctrine," 10 Sep. 2019 Additionally, the agency will try new mechanisms like a left turn treatment that constrains vehicles to a 90-degree angle, reducing their speed and allowing them to check for pedestrians. Rachel Swan,, "SF redesigns busy intersections as 2019 traffic fatalities outpace last year," 29 Aug. 2019 Hawks in Washington, not least White House national security adviser John Bolton, saw the treaty as an anachronism that constrained American strategic options but did not affect a rising power such as China. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Trump opens the door to chaos as landmark treaty expires," 2 Aug. 2019 States like New York are seeking to find the sources of the Sackler fortune, hoping to reclaim portions of it, particularly in the event that a Purdue bankruptcy could constrain payouts to litigants. Danny Hakim, New York Times, "New York Uncovers $1 Billion in Sackler Family Wire Transfers," 13 Sep. 2019 Being listed only in South Africa had limited Naspers’ pool of accessible capital and its dominance on the local stock exchange also constrained local investment managers. Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, "Africa’s most valuable company has just created the biggest internet company in Europe," 11 Sep. 2019 SFO Airport Stories But SFO is unusually constrained; any expansion of its runways would require filling in the bay, and a plan to do so faltered against strong environmental opposition in 2001. Mallory Moench,, "‘A massive mess’: SFO runway construction delays mount despite reduced flights," 9 Sep. 2019 Poor implementation can constrain environmental benefits. Wired, "The Red Lights Stopping Yellow School Buses from Going Green," 4 Sep. 2019 Brewers have zeroed in on six-pack-ring packaging partly because most consumers can recall the haunting image of a seagull, turtle, or some other aquatic creature constrained or killed by the plastic rings. John Kell, Fortune, "Beermakers Are Experimenting With New—and Sustainable—Six-Pack Designs," 2 Sep. 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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Statistics for constrain

Last Updated

3 Oct 2019

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)
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

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