con·​straint | \ kən-ˈstrānt \

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

And while both FedEx Express and FedEx Ground—an entirely separate, parallel organization headquartered in Pittsburgh—get hit hard during the holiday season, Express is uniquely subject to Santa-like time constraints. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "Inside FedEx’s Christmas Miracle," 19 Dec. 2018 Cost constraints later prompted team president and general manager Jeff Berding to say the capacity would be dropped to 21,000. Patrick Brennan,, "Maximum capacity versus ticket scarcity: The debate to determine FC Cincinnati's West End stadium capacity," 29 June 2018 When possible, the best defense is for humans to add constraints to the system, such as removing language patterns that are considered sexist. Daniel Lowd, Scientific American, "Can Facebook Use AI to Fight Online Abuse?," 13 June 2018 But there was never a constraint on Mueller to adhere only to those questions. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "What Rudy Giuliani gets totally wrong about Robert Mueller," 29 May 2018 That’s the question this week, as first Polygon and then Kotaku reported that Black Ops IIII has apparently ditched its singleplayer campaign due to time constraints. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Call of Duty and Battlefield bound for battle royale, Shenmue comes to PC," 20 Apr. 2018 Plummeting stock prices reflect a growing sentiment that constraints are inevitable. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, "Silicon Valley Falls to Earth," 9 Apr. 2018 These constraints are one reason why federal death-penalty cases are exceedingly rare to begin with. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Trump Administration’s Death Penalty Daydream," 21 Mar. 2018 And the biggest constraint is the device's field of view. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "New Footage From Magic Leap Is a Thrilling Glimpse of the Future," 19 Apr. 2016

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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Last Updated

11 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for constraint

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

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More Definitions for constraint



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 \

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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Comments on constraint

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involving abstract or general statements

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