1. The threat or use of force to prevent, restrict, or dictate the action or thought of others.
2. The state of being restricted or confined within prescribed bounds: soon tired of the constraint of military life.
3. One that restricts, limits, or regulates; a check: ignored all moral constraints in his pursuit of success.
4. Embarrassed reserve or reticence; awkwardness: "All constraint had vanished between the two, and they began to talk" (Edith Wharton).
[Middle English constreinte, from Old French, from feminine past participle of constraindre, to constrain; see CONSTRAIN.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.