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  1. Usually trammels. a hindrance or impediment to free action; restraint: the trammels of custom.
  2. an instrument for drawing ellipses.
  3. Also called tram. a device used to align or adjust parts of a machine.
  4. trammel net.
  5. a fowling net.
  6. a contrivance hung in a fireplace to support pots or kettles over the fire.
  7. a fetter or shackle, especially one used in training a horse to amble.
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verb (used with object), tram·meled, tram·mel·ing or (especially British) tram·melled, tram·mel·ling.
  1. to involve or hold in trammels; restrain.
  2. to catch or entangle in or as in a net.
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Origin of trammel

1325–75; Middle English tramayle < Middle French tramail, variant of tremail three-mesh net < Late Latin trēmaculum, equivalent to Latin trē(s) three + macula mesh
Related formstram·mel·er; especially British, tram·mel·ler, nounun·tram·meled, adjectiveun·tram·melled, adjective

Synonyms for trammel

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

Related Words for trammel

obstruct, cramp, clog, fetter, restrict, handcuff, curb, thwart, tether, check, manacle, shackle, restrain, tie, disrupt, hinder, frustrate, impede, hobble, hamstring

Examples from the Web for trammel

Historical Examples of trammel

  • What need have we of these brutal proofs which trammel our liberty?

    English Conferences of Ernest Renan

    Ernest Renan

  • Reason is confined within none of the partitions which trammel it in life.

    The Book-lover

    James Baldwin

  • I shall not trammel you with any restrictions or annoy you with any advice.

  • The libraries have not killed sincerity; they have done no more than trammel it.

  • The most correct method of drawing an ellipse is by means of an instrument termed a trammel, which is shown in Figure 83.

British Dictionary definitions for trammel


  1. (often plural) a hindrance to free action or movement
  2. Also called: trammel net a fishing net in three sections, the two outer nets having a large mesh and the middle one a fine mesh
  3. rare a fowling net
  4. US a fetter or shackle, esp one used in teaching a horse to amble
  5. a device for drawing ellipses consisting of a flat sheet of metal, plastic, or wood having a cruciform slot in which run two pegs attached to a beam. The free end of the beam describes an ellipse
  6. (sometimes plural) another name for beam compass
  7. Also called: tram a gauge for setting up machines correctly
  8. a device set in a fireplace to support cooking pots
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verb -els, -elling or -elled or US -els, -eling or -eled (tr)
  1. to hinder or restrain
  2. to catch or ensnare
  3. to produce an accurate setting of (a machine adjustment), as with a trammel
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Derived Formstrammeller or US trammeler, noun

Word Origin for trammel

C14: from Old French tramail three-mesh net, from Late Latin trēmaculum, from Latin trēs three + macula hole, mesh in a net
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 trammel


mid-14c. (implied in trammeller) "net to catch fish," from Middle French tramail, from Old French (early 13c.), from Late Latin tremaculum, perhaps meaning "a net made from three layers of meshes," from Latin tri- "three" + macula "a mesh" (see mail (2)). Italian tramaglio, Spanish trasmallo are French loan-words.

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1530s, originally "to bind up (a corpse);" sense of "hinder, restrain" is from 1727, from trammel (n.). Related: Trammeled; trammeling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper