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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web These dynamic exercises teach students to think through di erent constraints faced by decision-makers, alongside practicing policymaking firsthand at a granular level. Foreign Affairs, 10 June 2024 South Africa, which has more than twice as many wealthy individuals as any other African country, has lost 20% of its millionaires in the last 10 years as the country battled logistics constraints, rolling blackouts and endemic crime and corruption. Eva Roytburg, Fortune, 7 June 2024 Unfortunately, moving out is not currently an option for me due to financial constraints. Harriette Cole, The Mercury News, 4 June 2024 Together, Colorado’s new tax credits represent a reimagining of how state officials handle TABOR surpluses — while trying to stay within the constraints of the constitutional amendment passed by voters more than 30 years ago. Nick Coltrain, The Denver Post, 1 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for constraint 

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 15 Jun. 2024.

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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