Definition of constrain in English:



  • 1 Compel 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’
    • ‘I am constrained, however, to require repayment only at the time this proceeding is resolved either by settlement or trial.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But after more than four years now, we are constrained to take a hard and serious look at the whole enterprise.’
    • ‘We are constrained to apply only reasonable force when we, our families, or our property is attacked.’
    • ‘I am also constrained to point out that on many subjects they would vigorously disagree with one another.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is not just that we are free to kill other people; market freedom constrains us to do so.’
    • ‘However, I am constrained to view, with great disquiet, some aspects of these plans.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    compel, force, coerce, drive, impel, oblige, prevail on, require
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Appearing forced or overly controlled.
      ‘he was acting in a constrained manner’
      • ‘‘Those civil servants should get a taste of reality,’ a voice on the radio phone-in show quivers with barely constrained rage.’
      • ‘Certainly he is more believable when he's doing anger and hardness than when he deploys his constrained smile.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The row of urinals is a strange world where the constrained norms of social behaviour are abandoned.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Our observational abilities are surely constrained yet they correspond to our real world.’
      • ‘Directed or telic group behaviour doesn't allow the full spectrum of social language because it's constrained.’
      • ‘Staff take a constrained and limited position on consultation.’
      • ‘As a prisoner of immediacy, avant-gardist form reveals the poet's inner life in a heavily constrained and distorted content.’
      • ‘As opposed to the presentation of the piccolo concerto, the suite was interpreted with a much nobler and constrained tone.’
      • ‘Contemporary limits on material advance are not physical or even social, but the result of a constrained imagination.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The partisans argue that objective social science is impossible because sociologists cannot transcend their own ideologically constrained world-views.’
    2. 1.2Severely restrict the scope, extent, or activity of.
      ‘agricultural development is considerably constrained by climate’
      • ‘How does regulation constrain their promotional activities?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Whereas such activities had been constrained in their locations by rail, and in some cases, water transport, the highways have rendered them more footloose.’
      • ‘He said problems of competitiveness would also severely constrain the small industry sector, which he feared would stagnate.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To the extent that globalization constrains states or renders their policies ineffective it has the effect, many would argue, of undermining democracy.’
      • ‘The cumulative effect of these sites would be to reduce the flexibility and severely constrain the safe and efficient operation of the airspace.’
      • ‘Once a new function has evolved, the changes involved in the emergence of the novel activity will be constrained by negative selection.’
      • ‘Some of the recommendations which await council approval are the deregulation of red-tape and restrictive by-laws constraining economic activity in the city.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘However, innovation for years to come will be severely constrained by the space and premises.’
      • ‘Students are awarded university scholarships on a competitive basis, but lack of funding severely constrains the universities.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Most of them have the ideas, acumen and determination to expand their activities but are constrained by the lack of finance capital.’
      • ‘But until the group gets its borrowings down, its scope for further expansion and investment will be severely constrained.’
      • ‘Without a vibrant financial services' sector the ability of the economy to thrive is severely constrained.’
      • ‘It signals an opportunity to escape from your normal routine and experience activities ordinarily constrained by employment restrictions.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Both the academic and health care communities have been severely constrained in maintaining access to newly-published information.’
    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’
      • ‘He would hate being confined, constrained and any love he had for her would change over time if she asked that of him.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I will constrain my heart against my liking, save that I will not delude him with false hopes.’


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