verb (used with object)

to hold back from action; keep in check or under control; repress: to restrain one's temper.
to deprive of liberty, as by arrest or the like.
to limit or hamper the activity, growth, or effect of: to restrain trade with Cuba.

Origin of restrain

1350–1400; Middle English restreynen < Middle French restreindre < Latin restringere to bind back, bind fast, equivalent to re- re- + stringere to draw together; see strain1
Related formsre·strain·a·ble, adjectivere·strain·a·bil·i·ty, nounre·strain·ing·ly, adverbo·ver·re·strain, verb (used with object)pre·re·strain, verb (used with object)un·re·strain·a·ble, adjective
Can be confusedrefrain restrainre-strain restrain

Synonyms for restrain

Synonym study

1. See check1.

Antonyms for restrain



verb (used with or without object)

to strain again.

Origin of re-strain

First recorded in 1870–75; re- + strain1
Can be confusedre-strain restrain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for restrain

Contemporary Examples of restrain

Historical Examples of restrain

  • Has this fearful pestilence no power to restrain the appetites and passions of the people?


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Yet the effort she made, and with success, to restrain the show of her anger, was far from slight.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • The railroad can do it, to restrain its employees from striking.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Mary made no effort to restrain the smile caused by the costume of Mr. Griggs.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • It was all he could do to restrain himself from roaring aloud in his rage.

    Casanova's Homecoming

    Arthur Schnitzler

British Dictionary definitions for restrain


verb (tr)

to hold (someone) back from some action, esp by force
to deprive (someone) of liberty, as by imprisonment
to limit or restrict
Derived Formsrestrainable, adjective

Word Origin for restrain

C14 restreyne, from Old French restreindre, from Latin rēstringere to draw back tightly, from re- + stringere to draw, bind; see strain 1
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 restrain

mid-14c., from stem of Old French restreindre "press, push together; curb, bridle; bandage" (12c.), from Latin restringere "draw back tightly, confine, check" (see restriction). Related: Restrained; restraining.

That which we restrain we keep within limits; that which we restrict we keep within certain definite limits; that which we repress we try to put out of existence. [Century Dictionary, 1902]



"strain again," 1874, from re- + strain (v.). Related: Re-strained; re-straining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper