con·​straint | \ kən-ˈstrānt How to pronounce constraint (audio) \

Definition of constraint

1a : the act of constraining
b : the state of being checked, restricted, or compelled to avoid or perform some action … the constraint and monotony of a monastic life …— Matthew Arnold a life of invalidism and constraint
c : a constraining condition, agency, or force : check put legal constraints on the board's activities Budget constraints have forced me to revise my travel plans.
2a : repression of one's own feelings, behavior, or actions emotional constraint
b : a sense of being constrained : embarrassment " … a constraint between us as if we were strangers … "— John P. Marquand

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Examples of constraint in a Sentence

Lack of funding has been a major constraint on the building's design. They demand freedom from constraint. They refuse to work under constraint any longer.
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Recent Examples on the Web That constraint on the user base seems to have limited the interest from game publishers in developing games for VR. Washington Post, "The biggest questions facing the gaming world in 2021," 30 Dec. 2020 For people with life-limiting illnesses, time is less of a nebulous concept than a pressing constraint; there are fewer chances for do-overs. Andrew Joseph, STAT, "‘There’s no back to normal’: For people with terminal illnesses, time lost to Covid-19 can’t be made up," 23 Dec. 2020 But in key situations, finding the optimal move can require a level of forethought that is beyond the capacity of most humans working with a time constraint. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The Real Queen’s Gambit: Catching Chess Cheaters," 9 Dec. 2020 The lack of funding is a key constraint for China's guide dog schools, Liang said. Nectar Gan, CNN, "China has 8 million blind people, but only 200 guide dogs," 23 Nov. 2020 There's a tremendous amount of freedom within the framework of constraint. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "Breaking down that Big Sky winter finale cliffhanger, where the show goes from here," 16 Dec. 2020 One constraint is that many public health laboratories do not have the machines that run tests to analyze for the presence of the coronavirus, which are called thermocyclers. Robert Glennon, The Conversation, "Testing sewage can give school districts, campuses and businesses a heads-up on the spread of COVID-19," 24 Nov. 2020 Yet in this very temporal constraint, there is a danger. Fintan O’toole, The New York Review of Books, "Democracy’s Afterlife," 10 Nov. 2020 With the imposition of a hard budget constraint, the fiscal deficit disappeared, and the economy boomed. Craig Richardson, National Review, "Dollarized Victoria Falls Rises above Zimbabwe’s Economic Mess," 10 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'constraint.' 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 constraint

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for constraint

Middle English, from Middle French constrainte, from constraindre — see constrain

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Time Traveler for constraint

Time Traveler

The first known use of constraint was in the 15th century

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Statistics for constraint

Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Constraint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for constraint


How to pronounce constraint (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of constraint

: something that limits or restricts someone or something
: control that limits or restricts someone's actions or behavior


con·​straint | \ kən-ˈstrānt How to pronounce constraint (audio) \

Kids Definition of constraint

1 : control that limits or restricts The committee refused to act under constraint.
2 : something that limits or restricts money constraints

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