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

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 Passive real estate investing can create the ability for individuals to invest in real estate without the stress or time constraint of operating the real estate property. Feras Moussa, Forbes, 29 Dec. 2021 That series-long arc is studded with flashbacks to folks tied, closely or loosely, to Kirsten; the Symphony’s performances maintain a link to the past, pushing away for a moment the narrowness and constraint of life after plague. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 15 Dec. 2021 The move will allow Dollar Tree to expand its product assortment and reintroduce some items that were pulled due to the $1 constraint. Augusta Saraiva, Fortune, 23 Nov. 2021 Under the constraint of catering to male fantasy and competitiveness, strip clubs often become an oppressive environment to strippers. New York Times, 29 July 2021 In Mehar, Sahota has powerfully imagined a life under extreme constraint. Mark Athitakis, USA TODAY, 12 July 2021 Technical debt accumulates over many years, even decades, and can be a powerful constraint to any organization’s innovation and efficiency efforts. Jim Deloach, Forbes, 14 Oct. 2021 Yet today, China’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping, appears to consider the U.S. system a constraint on Chinese power. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 9 Dec. 2021 There’s a constraint between them — and Sanchez’s Taroon moves recklessly and speaks too loud. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 6 Dec. 2021

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

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

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Constraint.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.

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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 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

More from Merriam-Webster on constraint

Nglish: Translation of constraint for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of constraint for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about constraint


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