con·​strain | \ kən-ˈstrān How to pronounce constrain (audio) \
constrained; constraining; constrains

Definition of constrain

transitive verb

1a : to force by imposed stricture, restriction, or limitation Teenagers often feel constrained by rules. an artist constrained by a client's requirements
b : to restrict the motion of (a mechanical body) to a particular mode
2 : compress also : to clasp tightly
3 : to secure by or as if by bonds : confine constrained to a dungeon broadly : limit
4 : to force or produce in an unnatural or strained manner a constrained smile
5 : to hold back by or as if by force " … constraining my mind not to wander from the task."— Charles Dickens

Other Words from constrain

constrainedly \ kən-​ˈstrā-​nəd-​lē How to pronounce constrain (audio) , -​ˈstrānd-​lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for constrain

force, compel, coerce, constrain, oblige mean to make someone or something yield. force is the general term and implies the overcoming of resistance by the exertion of strength, power, or duress. forced to flee for their lives compel typically suggests overcoming of resistance or unwillingness by an irresistible force. compelled to admit my mistake coerce suggests overcoming resistance or unwillingness by actual or threatened violence or pressure. coerced into signing over the rights constrain suggests the effect of a force or circumstance that limits freedom of action or choice. constrained by conscience oblige implies the constraint of necessity, law, or duty. felt obliged to go

Examples of constrain in a Sentence

constrained by conscience to tell only the truth constrained his anger at the needless interruption
Recent Examples on the Web The right today is mobilizing state power and using corporate money to attempt to constrain academic freedom in the name of free speech. David Marchese, New York Times, 1 May 2022 Costly signaling explains human aesthetic judgments; complex rhyme schemes constrain rap lyricists, making expert verses that much more impressive. Matthew Hutson, WSJ, 24 Apr. 2022 Harvey said the ongoing global shortage of semiconductor chips, used in many car parts, could constrain Lyriq production volume. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, 15 Mar. 2022 Others are choosing to retire because of staffing shortages that consistently require overtime, or constrain time off. San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Mar. 2022 The goal -- now as then -- was to constrain an Iranian nuclear program that, left uncontrolled, might have resulted in an Israeli strike leading to a regional war and US military intervention. Aaron David Miller, CNN, 16 Mar. 2022 The meeting is set to take place during negotiations between world powers and Iran to constrain Tehran’s expanding nuclear program. Thomas Grove, WSJ, 12 Dec. 2021 To constrain the frequency of speech, the size or composition of an audience, the spread of any single speech act, or the life span of such posts is entirely accordant with the creative and technical underpinning of computational media. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 22 Oct. 2021 One powerful lawmaker has said the city rule is unenforceable and threatened legislative action to constrain mayors’ emergency powers. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 2 Sep. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'constrain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of constrain

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for constrain

Middle English, from Anglo-French constraindre, from Latin constringere to constrict, constrain, from com- + stringere to draw tight — more at strain

Learn More About constrain

Time Traveler for constrain

Time Traveler

The first known use of constrain was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near constrain




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for constrain

Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Constrain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for constrain


con·​strain | \ kən-ˈstrān How to pronounce constrain (audio) \
constrained; constraining

Kids Definition of constrain

1 : compel sense 1, force He was constrained to retire because of ill health.
2 : to restrict or limit She felt the rules constrained her creativity.

More from Merriam-Webster on constrain

Nglish: Translation of constrain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of constrain for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!