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tram·​mel ˈtra-məl How to pronounce trammel (audio)
trammeled or trammelled; trammeling or trammelling ˈtra-mə-liŋ How to pronounce trammel (audio)

transitive verb

: to catch or hold in or as if in a net : enmesh
: to prevent or impede the free play of : confine


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: something impeding activity, progress, or freedom : restraint
usually used in plural
: a net for catching birds or fish
especially : one having three layers with the middle one finer-meshed and slack so that fish passing through carry some of the center net through the coarser opposite net and are trapped
: an adjustable pothook for a fireplace crane
: a shackle used for making a horse amble
: an instrument for drawing ellipses
: a compass for drawing large circles that consists of a beam with two sliding parts
usually used in plural
: any of various gauges used for aligning or adjusting machine parts

Did you know?

A trammel net traditionally has three layers, with the middle one finer-meshed and slack so that fish passing through the first net carry some of the center net through the coarser third net and are trapped. Appropriately, trammel traces back through the Middle English tramayle and the Old French tramail to the Late Latin tremaculum, which comes from Latin tres, meaning "three," and macula, meaning "mesh." Today, the plural trammels is synonymous with restraints, and trammel is also used as a verb meaning "to confine" or "to enmesh." You may also run across the adjective untrammeled, meaning "not confined or limited."

Choose the Right Synonym for trammel

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 trammel in a Sentence

Verb laws that trammel our rights as citizens years after his death, she was still trammeled by inconsolable grief for her deceased husband Noun students and parents who want to throw off the trammels of outdated school policies
Recent Examples on the Web
The Founders gave an independent judiciary the responsibility of preventing the other branches from trammeling fundamental liberties of citizens. oregonlive, 23 Jan. 2020 The Patriots defense, which is on pace to break NFL records for most sacks and fewest points allowed, has trammeled and trampled opposing offenses, but the schedule keeps serving up red meat or raw quarterbacks for them to prey upon., 9 Oct. 2019 Now the area is brimming with new construction, and Ms. Medvedow, 63, is leading her institution into another less-trammeled area. New York Times, 22 June 2018 Those federal laws, along with state and local equivalents, provide broad and effective remedies for unequal pay without trammeling the hiring process. Gerald Skoning, WSJ, 12 Dec. 2017 When applied to armed protests, that mindset takes our country to a dangerous place: The Second Amendment and state open carry laws cannot trammel the free speech rights of unarmed protesters and the necessity for law enforcement to keep the peace. Olivia Li, Slate Magazine, 17 Oct. 2017
The moment comes right before America Ferrera’s big monologue about the trammels of womanhood, when Robbie soliloquizes, too, about the loss of her self-esteem. Wesley Morris, New York Times, 18 Feb. 2024 Step 2: Measure and Cut Cubby Dividers Use trammel points to mark a rounded edge (an arc with a 7-1/2-inch radius) on three 6-1/2 x 19-inch boards. Lucy Fitzgerald, Better Homes & Gardens, 14 Feb. 2024 Use trammel points to mark a rounded edge (an arc with a 7-1/2-inch radius) on three 6-1/2 x 19-inch boards. Lucy Fitzgerald, Better Homes & Gardens, 28 July 2022 Join the top and drop leaf; then use a large trammel to mark the curved edge. Thomas Klenck, Popular Mechanics, 14 Aug. 2021 Make a trammel, or beam compass, that pivots on a 3⁄8-in. Neal Barrett, Popular Mechanics, 7 Aug. 2021 Build the trammel out of 1⁄2-in.-thick plywood, mount the router on one end and install a straight bit. Neal Barrett, Popular Mechanics, 7 Aug. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'trammel.' 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 tramayle, a kind of net, from Old French tramail, from Late Latin tremaculum, from Latin tres three + macula mesh, spot — more at three

First Known Use


circa 1606, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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


Dictionary Entries Near trammel

Cite this Entry

“Trammel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
tram·​mel ˈtram-əl How to pronounce trammel (audio)
: something preventing free movement or activity
usually used in plural


2 of 2 verb
trammeled or trammelled; trammeling or trammelling
: to prevent or restrict the free movement of

More from Merriam-Webster on trammel

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