Definition of constrain in English:



[with object]
  • 1Compel or force (someone) to follow a particular course of action.

    with object and infinitive ‘children are constrained to work in the way the book dictates’
    • ‘We are constrained to apply only reasonable force when we, our families, or our property is attacked.’
    • ‘I am constrained, however, to require repayment only at the time this proceeding is resolved either by settlement or trial.’
    • ‘It is not just that we are free to kill other people; market freedom constrains us to do so.’
    • ‘May the Lord graciously grant us this holy faith and the love for Christ that rises from it - a love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, constraining us to lean on him alone.’
    • ‘However, I am constrained to view, with great disquiet, some aspects of these plans.’
    • ‘But after more than four years now, we are constrained to take a hard and serious look at the whole enterprise.’
    • ‘She was not constrained to follow His passage, but made a devastating beeline to wherever she thought she could pin Him down, only to discover in every instance that He was already gone.’
    • ‘I am also constrained to point out that on many subjects they would vigorously disagree with one another.’
    • ‘He argues that the main plot of the post-Stalin years was the waning of administrative pressure, but his sources constrain him to tell the story of reforms.’
    • ‘‘I very much regret that I am constrained so to do,’ he said.’
    • ‘I am not constrained to continue working on this piece if I need some alternative activity.’
    • ‘I was working on how, as a lesbian, I felt I was constrained to wear a uniform, which was something I had resisted all my life.’
    • ‘The enemy has been given every advantage by our sense of morality and restraint and by a set of operational rules that we are constrained to operate under.’
    compel, force, coerce, drive, impel, oblige, prevail on, require
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1as adjective constrained Appearing forced or overly controlled.
      ‘he was acting in a constrained manner’
      • ‘Our observational abilities are surely constrained yet they correspond to our real world.’
      • ‘‘Those civil servants should get a taste of reality,’ a voice on the radio phone-in show quivers with barely constrained rage.’
      • ‘Staff take a constrained and limited position on consultation.’
      • ‘Certainly he is more believable when he's doing anger and hardness than when he deploys his constrained smile.’
      • ‘Directed or telic group behaviour doesn't allow the full spectrum of social language because it's constrained.’
      • ‘The row of urinals is a strange world where the constrained norms of social behaviour are abandoned.’
      • ‘The reading up is the exercise which we say leaves the Court in the unchartered sea because it has no criteria by which to know how to expand a power which appears to have been given in constrained terms.’
      • ‘Contemporary limits on material advance are not physical or even social, but the result of a constrained imagination.’
      • ‘As a prisoner of immediacy, avant-gardist form reveals the poet's inner life in a heavily constrained and distorted content.’
      • ‘You hear the Democratic point of view, but you also hear the Republican point of view, usually in a constrained, civil exchange in which each person is allowed to fully expound on the issue at hand.’
      • ‘But while he enjoyed the attention that comes with having a number one single, a talent like him clearly chafed at the constrained expectations of a pop star.’
      • ‘As opposed to the presentation of the piccolo concerto, the suite was interpreted with a much nobler and constrained tone.’
      • ‘They clearly care for each other deeply, but there is still a constrained sadness that shows they have sacrificed everything - their homes, their families and even their safety - in order to be together.’
      • ‘The partisans argue that objective social science is impossible because sociologists cannot transcend their own ideologically constrained world-views.’
      unnatural, awkward, self-conscious, mannered, artificial, wooden, stilted, strained, forced, contrived, laboured
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Severely restrict the scope, extent, or activity of.
      ‘agricultural development is considerably constrained by climate’
      • ‘Once a new function has evolved, the changes involved in the emergence of the novel activity will be constrained by negative selection.’
      • ‘By the second half of the nineteenth century the lack of a dependable water supply, underscored by frequent drought, was recognized as severely constraining the Cape Colony's agricultural development.’
      • ‘He said problems of competitiveness would also severely constrain the small industry sector, which he feared would stagnate.’
      • ‘Social housing is often reduced to mere programme, but since space standards are regulated and budgets constrained, the scope for innovation tends to be limited.’
      • ‘The government at times severely constrains the direction of artistic development through censorship, control over printing, and the presence of party members in artistic organizations.’
      • ‘The bureaucracy promotes political equality and, to a limited extent, constrains economic inequality.’
      • ‘But until the group gets its borrowings down, its scope for further expansion and investment will be severely constrained.’
      • ‘Most of them have the ideas, acumen and determination to expand their activities but are constrained by the lack of finance capital.’
      • ‘How does regulation constrain their promotional activities?’
      • ‘Some of the recommendations which await council approval are the deregulation of red-tape and restrictive by-laws constraining economic activity in the city.’
      • ‘Students are awarded university scholarships on a competitive basis, but lack of funding severely constrains the universities.’
      • ‘Furthermore, when a global democratic mechanism for supporting fair use does not exist, the limitations owners put on use may severely constrain the social developmental good that such content may provide.’
      • ‘As a result, domestic laws and policies in a wide range of areas need to be changed to make them compliant with these rules, even though this will severely restrict or constrain possible policy options in many areas.’
      • ‘However, innovation for years to come will be severely constrained by the space and premises.’
      • ‘The cumulative effect of these sites would be to reduce the flexibility and severely constrain the safe and efficient operation of the airspace.’
      • ‘It signals an opportunity to escape from your normal routine and experience activities ordinarily constrained by employment restrictions.’
      • ‘Without a vibrant financial services' sector the ability of the economy to thrive is severely constrained.’
      • ‘Whereas such activities had been constrained in their locations by rail, and in some cases, water transport, the highways have rendered them more footloose.’
      • ‘Both the academic and health care communities have been severely constrained in maintaining access to newly-published information.’
      • ‘To the extent that globalization constrains states or renders their policies ineffective it has the effect, many would argue, of undermining democracy.’
      restrict, limit, curb, check, restrain, regulate, contain, hold back, keep down
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3archaic Bring about (something) by compulsion.
      ‘Calypso in her caves constrained his stay’
    4. 1.4literary Confine forcibly; imprison.
      ‘the walls are high, the gates are strong, but true love never yet was thus constrained’
      • ‘Help me, O God, to scrub away the guilt, to flush away the regrets, to polish and oil the rusty hinges that constrain my spirit.’
      • ‘He would hate being confined, constrained and any love he had for her would change over time if she asked that of him.’
      • ‘I will constrain my heart against my liking, save that I will not delude him with false hopes.’
      confine, restrain, restrict, impede, hamstring, baulk, frustrate, stifle, hinder, hamper, check, retard, cramp, rein in
      View synonyms


Middle English: from Old French constraindre, from Latin constringere ‘bind tightly together’.