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 Even if more disciplined producers like ConocoPhillips do genuinely want to constrain production, the U.S. oil and gas sector is infamously anarchic. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "Gas Price Wars Are Back and More Incoherent Than Ever," 16 Mar. 2021 North Korea asked for sanctions relief in return for limited steps to constrain its nuclear weapons program. Sabrina Siddiqui, WSJ, "U.S. Outreach to North Korea Has Gone Unanswered, White House Says," 15 Mar. 2021 The initial rollout is meant to encourage emitters to accurately document and report their past emissions, not to seriously constrain emissions. Scott Carpenter, Forbes, "Toothless At First, China’s Carbon Market Could Be Fearsome," 2 Mar. 2021 The governor reiterated his support for a series of constitutional amendments intended to constrain future state spending and taxation. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Dunleavy renews push for legal gambling and calls for Alaska self-sufficiency in first-ever remote State of the State speech," 29 Jan. 2021 Yet the strength of social rules that constrain our behaviors is another factor in the spread of disease. Sabrina Sholts, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why This Pandemic Won’t Be the Last," 5 Mar. 2021 But India's tightening rules on foreign investment could constrain China's ability to cash in on the country's internet boom. Sherisse Pham, CNN, "Chinese tech companies bet big on India. Now they're being shut out," 10 Dec. 2020 That would be a wider agreement, going beyond Iran’s nuclear program, to set limits also on its ballistic missile program and to constrain its military interventions across the Arab world, from Yemen to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon on the Mediterranean. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, "Can diplomacy deter Iranian nuclear ambitions a second time?," 3 Feb. 2021 Unfortunately, state laws currently constrain cities from adopting ordinances that require cleaner heating and cooling solutions. Ellen Anderson, Star Tribune, "State's climate report card shows we're failing," 24 Jan. 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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Statistics for constrain

Last Updated

25 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Constrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 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.

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Comments on constrain

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