Definition of trammel in English:



  • 1literary A restriction or impediment to someone's freedom of action.

    ‘we will forge our own future, free from the trammels of materialism’
    • ‘The most notable characteristic of Archimedes' mathematical work is its freedom from the trammels of traditional Greek mathematics.’
    • ‘Wannabe ‘Americans’ had come to the New World to escape the trammels of established churches and feudalism which disfigured early modern Europe.’
    • ‘It was the culmination of the sustained effort of many small entrepreneurs who had carved out a unique niche for offering hospitality without the trammels of the organised industry.’
    • ‘This new Germany was mostly free from the trammels of the postwar system, and the Federal Republic seemed, more than ever, Europe's leading power.’
    • ‘He longs for the realisation of Shiva amidst the trammels of the illusory cosmos.’
    restraint, constraint, curb, check, impediment, obstacle, barrier, handicap, bar, block, hindrance, encumbrance, disadvantage, drawback, snag, stumbling block
    shackles, fetters, bonds
    View synonyms
  • 2A set-net consisting of three layers of netting, designed so that a fish entering through one of the large-meshed outer sections will push part of the finer-meshed central section through the large meshes on the further side, forming a pocket in which the fish is trapped.

    • ‘With the aid of electrofishing gear and trammel nets, biologists collect sexually mature fish and haul them to Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery, Arizona, where they are spawned.’
    • ‘Researchers lifted a trammel net full of large Asian carp from Swan Lake, a backwater lake of the Illinois River, in 2001.’
    • ‘The well-equipped vessel was lost with a full suite of gear, including VHF, echo sounder, plotter, autopilot, gill and trammel nets and a complete toolset.’
    • ‘A short herring fishing took place with a few of the small ‘skiffs’ using trammel nets managed to catch the allocated quota.’
  • 3An instrument consisting of a board with two grooves intersecting at right angles, in which the two ends of a beam compass can slide to draw an ellipse.

    • ‘Accessories for rules are presented in another chapter that describes attachments used with rules such as fences, protractors, gauges, trammels, and carrying cases.’
    • ‘As expected, Stanley tools were prominent but there was also a good selection of English tools as well as a nice assortment of planes, rules, trammels, saws, and levels by various makers.’
    • ‘There are miter clamps, levels, plumb bobs, oil cans, planes, trammels, and so on.’
    1. 3.1A beam compass.
  • 4US A hook in a fireplace for a kettle.


  • Deprive of freedom of action.

    ‘those less trammeled by convention than himself’
    • ‘No Scottish Labour leader would dream of letting himself be trammelled by the kind of political constraints that hobbled Louis XIV.’
    • ‘Making this case all the more pointed, even the right of a woman to criticize her own religion has been trammeled.’
    • ‘As the protesters sat on the floor the police line of 80 or more officers would pound forward trammelling the seated protesters.’
    • ‘On the other hand, neither is it at the other end of the spectrum in which rights were trammeled in blatant disregard for the Charter.’
    • ‘Without free expression, rights may be trammelled with no recourse in the court of public opinion.’
    • ‘I think this is another paradigm of countries in transition, the bad roads left behind after being trammelled by the carts of history.’
    • ‘Both have trammeled their critics and opponents.’
    • ‘Mental stereotyping trammels the majority along certain lines of thought where ‘Greens cost jobs’ and ‘economic growth is good’, and these catchphrases may well be wrong.’
    • ‘So, wherever I'd been working, the prospect of untrammeled freedom to air my thoughts probably would have been attractive. At that magazine, though, I was rather trammeled.’
    • ‘I don't think that's anything to do with a specific right of academic freedom which is the right to pursue your academic location without being trammelled by our particular academic fashions.’
    • ‘When I get home tonight, we are going to find us a nice unbroken field of snow… and trammel it.’
    • ‘Why was it so important to these interests to trammel public higher education?’
    • ‘With no reception, and an intimidating atmosphere of intense concentration and industry, this is no place to walk into as a stranger trammelled by British reserve.’
    • ‘That horror in turn serves as symbol of the chains that trammel the spirit.’
    • ‘The lack of evidence also trammelled the inquiry into the most serious allegations, those involving collusion between the British authorities and loyalist paramilitaries.’
    • ‘Such creative transgressions urge us to abandon the obsession with stylistic consistency and recognisability that trammels, for many viewers, the experience of looking at paintings.’
    restrict, restrain, constrain, hamper, confine, curb, check, hinder, handicap, obstruct, impede, interfere with, forestall, thwart, frustrate
    hold back, retard, slow down, cramp, clog, straiten, hem in
    hamstring, bridle, encumber, enmesh, ensnare
    throw a spanner in the works of
    throw a monkey wrench in the works of
    View synonyms


Late Middle English ( trammel): from Old French tramail, from a medieval Latin variant of trimaculum, perhaps from Latin tri- three + macula mesh.