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See more synonyms for constraint on Thesaurus.com
  1. limitation or restriction.
  2. repression of natural feelings and impulses: to practice constraint.
  3. unnatural restraint in manner, conversation, etc.; embarrassment.
  4. something that constrains.
  5. the act of constraining.
  6. the condition of being constrained.
  7. Linguistics. a restriction on the operation of a linguistic rule or the occurrence of a linguistic construction.
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Origin of constraint

1350–1400; Middle English constreinte < Middle French, noun use of feminine past participle of constreindre; see constrain
Related formsnon·con·straint, noun


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for constraint

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The lawyer's face sobered, and his tone as he answered was tinged with constraint.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • But then there was constraint in the correspondence—it was submitted to her mother.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • But, placid as she was, my mother was authoritative, and could not endure any kind of constraint.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • Vere felt that somehow her eager suggestion had deepened the constraint.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • At length the clerk came up to him with awkward manners and a look of constraint.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for constraint


  1. compulsion, force, or restraint
  2. repression or control of natural feelings or impulses
  3. a forced unnatural manner; inhibition
  4. something that serves to constrain; restrictive conditionsocial constraints kept him silent
  5. linguistics any very general restriction on a sentence formation rule
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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 constraint


late 14c., "distress, oppression," from Old French constreinte "binding, constraint, compulsion" (Modern French contrainte), fem. noun from constreint, past participle of constreindre, from Vulgar Latin *constrinctus, from Latin constrictus (see constrain). Meaning "coercion, compulsion" is from 1530s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper