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 Those financial constraints won’t disappear in 2020. Justin Phillips,, "The most anticipated Bay Area restaurants of 2020," 8 Jan. 2020 To get around those constraints (for better or worse), the president needs to rely on political appointees. Noah Millman, TheWeek, "The Iran crisis is what happens when people believe in 'Great Men'," 7 Jan. 2020 The president’s disregard for moral constraint makes legal restraints on his war-making powers all the more important. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Trump’s Next Impeachable Offense is Nigh," 6 Jan. 2020 Financial constraints led to technological ones, which required resourcefulness in his recording strategies. Brandon Wilner, New York Times, "40 Years Later, Reggae’s Heart Still Beats in the Bronx," 5 Jan. 2020 For too long, this evil man operated without constraint, and countless innocents have suffered for it. Christal Hayes, USA TODAY, "Democrats warn against 'march' to war with Iran after Trump orders killing of Qasem Soleimani," 3 Jan. 2020 In some ways, the openness of recent title contenders to such drastic roster shakeups reflects a late stage in the development of homegrown cores in an era where teams are treating the luxury tax as a major constraint., "Taking a closer look at baseball’s unusual offseason - The Boston Globe," 29 Dec. 2019 When possible, have a backup plan to deal with barriers like weather or time constraints. Libby Richards, Quartz, "The case for moderate—not drastic—New Year’s exercise resolutions," 27 Dec. 2019 This luxury of time also plays well on caucus night when older voters, who have off have fewer constraints than full-time workers or the parents of young children, can spend hours in the rec halls and high school gymnasiums where the caucuses occur. Bo Erickson, CBS News, "Joe Biden is trying to win over Iowa seniors enamored with Pete Buttigieg," 24 Dec. 2019

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

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Constraint.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

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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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