con·​straint kən-ˈstrānt How to pronounce constraint (audio)
: the act of constraining
: 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
: 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.
: repression of one's own feelings, behavior, or actions
emotional constraint
: a sense of being constrained : embarrassment
" … a constraint between us as if we were strangers … "John P. Marquand

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Many of the laws passed this year, more than 22%, were bans on gender-affirming care; others were largely anti-trans restrictions on bathroom and facilities use, anti-trans sports bans, constraints on drag performance, and prohibition of pronoun use. Alexandra E. Petri, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2023 Apple claims that a single system with this type of GPU can train ML workloads that discrete GPUs can’t handle due to memory constraints. Tom Warren, The Verge, 5 June 2023 Despite the shortage, public education jobs were much slower to raise wages than other industries, likely due to state and local budget constraints. Elisabeth Buchwald, CNN, 3 June 2023 Improvisation If necessity is one mother of invention, constraint is another. Aileen Kwun, New York Times, 2 June 2023 These people said the setup — as well as Carlson’s availability to take on that kind of role, given the noncompete constraints of his contract with Fox — remain unclear. Isaac Stanley-becker, Washington Post, 4 May 2023 Take a look again at my prior herein exhortations about the limitations and constraints of ChatGPT and generative AI all told. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 3 May 2023 The report also took into account factors like whether the diets allowed flexibility so that people could tailor them based on their cultural and personal preferences and budgetary constraints. Anahad O'connor, Anchorage Daily News, 30 Apr. 2023 Recent city budgets have seen the number of police officers decrease in response to the city's financial constraints. Alison Dirr, Journal Sentinel, 27 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'constraint.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near constraint

Cite this Entry

“Constraint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​straint kən-ˈstrānt How to pronounce constraint (audio)
: the act of constraining : the state of being constrained
: something that constrains : check
: a holding back of one's feelings, actions, or behavior

More from Merriam-Webster on constraint

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