verb (used with object)

to force, compel, or oblige: He was constrained to admit the offense.
to confine forcibly, as by bonds.
to repress or restrain: Cold weather constrained the plant's growth.

Origin of constrain

1275–1325; Middle English constrei(g)nen < Anglo-French, Middle French constrei(g)n- (stem of constreindre) < Latin constringere. See con-, strain1
Related formscon·strain·a·ble, adjectivecon·strain·er, nouncon·strain·ing·ly, adverbnon·con·strain·ing, adjectiveun·con·strain·a·ble, adjectiveun·con·strain·ing, adjective
Can be confusedcoerce compel constrain force oblige

Synonyms for constrain

1. coerce. 2. check, bind.

Antonyms for constrain

2. free. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for constrain

Contemporary Examples of constrain

Historical Examples of constrain

  • I beg your pardon, but my brother; he shall not constrain me.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Would you profit by the authority you possess over her to constrain her will?

    One Of Them

    Charles James Lever

  • But only the vision of the Love that was willing to be broken for us can constrain us to be willing for that.

    The Calvary Road

    Roy Hession

  • Masters were forbidden to constrain slaves to marry against their will.

  • The hand of the bat has become so modified as to constrain the bat to live in the air.

    Form and Function

    E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell

British Dictionary definitions for constrain


verb (tr)

to compel or force, esp by persuasion, circumstances, etc; oblige
to restrain by or as if by force; confine
Derived Formsconstrainer, noun

Word Origin for constrain

C14: from Old French constreindre, from Latin constringere to bind together, from stringere to bind
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for constrain

early 14c., constreyen, from stem of Old French constreindre (Modern French contraindre) "restrain, control," from Latin constringere "to bind together, tie tightly, fetter, shackle, chain," from com- "together" (see com-) + stringere "to draw tight" (see strain (v.)). Related: Constrained; constraining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper