Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.
tr.v. con·strained, con·strain·ing, con·strains
a. To keep within certain limits; confine or limit: "Legislators ... used the power of the purse to constrain the size of the military" (Julian E. Zelizer).
b. To inhibit or restrain; hold back: "She noticed her mother blushing and acting somewhat constrained in her conversation with the grandmother" (David Huddle).
2. To compel by physical, moral, or circumstantial force; oblige: felt constrained to object to his behavior.
3. To produce in a forced or inhibited manner: "This smile seemed to touch something off in her ... and playfully she constrained her own roguish smile" (Naeem Murr).
[Middle English constreinen, from Old French constraindre, constraign-, from Latin cōnstringere, to restrain, compress : com-, com- + stringere, to bind, press together; see streig- in Indo-European roots.]
con·strain′ed·ly (-strā′nĭd-lē) adv.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.