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man·​a·​cle ˈma-ni-kəl How to pronounce manacle (audio)
: a shackle for the hand or wrist : handcuff
usually used in plural
: something used as a restraint


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manacled; manacling ˈma-ni-k(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce manacle (audio)

transitive verb

: to confine (the hands) with manacles
: to make fast or secure : bind
broadly : to restrain from movement, progress, or action
Choose the Right Synonym for manacle

hamper, trammel, clog, fetter, shackle, manacle mean to hinder or impede in moving, progressing, or acting.

hamper may imply the effect of any impeding or restraining influence.

hampered the investigation by refusing to cooperate

trammel suggests entangling by or confining within a net.

rules that trammel the artist's creativity

clog usually implies a slowing by something extraneous or encumbering.

a court system clogged by frivolous suits

fetter suggests a restraining so severe that freedom to move or progress is almost lost.

a nation fettered by an antiquated class system

shackle and manacle are stronger than fetter and suggest total loss of freedom.

a mind shackled by stubborn prejudice
a people manacled by tyranny

Examples of manacle in a Sentence

Noun manacles prevented the bear from roaming beyond a very small area the warring groups need to shake off the manacle of their troubled past and learn to live with one another in peace Verb manacled the prisoner to the wall in this situation, the police are manacled by unnecessary regulations
Recent Examples on the Web
During the trial, Wilber wore a manacle around his ankle and a stun belt on his arm. Sarah Volpenhein, Journal Sentinel, 2 Aug. 2022 Brown turned Milwaukee’s defense from manacle to meme. Globe Staff,, 4 May 2022 How to Be an Antiracist is a journal of Kendi's efforts to free himself of the ideological manacles clamped upon him by a society suffused with white supremacism, capitalist exploitation, misogyny and the repression of unconventional sexuality. Dallas News, 26 Aug. 2019 From every officer’s belt there dangled an insectlike furl of disposable plastic manacles. Caleb Crain, Harper's magazine, 22 July 2019 The genie is literally the slave of the lamp, his power bracelets actually manacles keeping him obedient to an endless round of masters. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 12 June 2019 But beyond the frenzied mix of hormones and alcohol is an intense curiosity in the outside world, one that noisily landed three weeks ago on the doorsteps of Russians, unfiltered and free from the manacles of politics. Amie Ferris-Rotman, Washington Post, 9 July 2018 The cellar dungeons were complete with bolts, chains and manacles for securing captives to the floors. Jonathan W. White, Smithsonian, 27 Feb. 2018 Greek mythological figure Andromeda is shown looking upward, her wrists bound in manacles. Theresa Vargas, Washington Post, 9 May 2017
The scandal is that, instead of doing his duty, the attorney general manacled his own Justice Department’s investigation. The Editors, National Review, 21 July 2023 His hands were manacled to a chain belt at his waist, and his feet were bound by leg irons. Pamela Colloff, ProPublica, 4 Dec. 2019 During those endless days and nights, everything was done to break his will: solitary confinement, pressure to confess by cruel supervisors and the humiliation of being manacled while receiving medical attention. Ariel Dorfman, New York Times, 27 Apr. 2018 They are filmed in lingering close-up as the opening credits roll, a montage of them manacling the wrists, ankles, necks, and dreams of African American men. Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press, 25 Feb. 2018 Early practitioners in literary study, the history of language, and anthropology were often ideologically manacled by the cultural mores that encased their object of study. Josephine Livingstone, New Republic, 25 Oct. 2017 He was imprisoned and, along with several other artists, manacled for a period of 50 days. Anne Glusker, Smithsonian, 6 Apr. 2017 Although the new territory bolstered his neo-Soviet reclamation project, retaliatory sanctions from the West manacled the Russian economy. Jack Dickey,, 10 July 2017 Valedictorian Nickolina Doran told classmates not to let fear manacle them and halt their progress in life. Bill Leukhardt,, 20 June 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'manacle.' 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 manicle, from Anglo-French, from Latin manicula handle, diminutive of manicae shackles, armor for the hand, from manus hand — more at manual

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of manacle was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near manacle

Cite this Entry

“Manacle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a shackle for the hand or wrist : handcuff
: something that prevents free action
manacle verb
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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