constraint definition

Learn the word “constraint”: definition and usage

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I like how the word “constraint” sounds.

It’s not difficult to learn how to pronounce it: there are no tricky parts in it. Maybe only the schwa sound in the first syllable. So if you have no idea what the schwa is, you’ll probably pronounce it as /kOnˈstreɪnt/ but actually it’s /kənˈstreɪnt/.

But the definition of the noun “constraint” is actually not that cool. “Constraint” means limitation or restriction. As the Cambridge dictionary puts it, “something that controls what you do by keeping you within particular limits.”

Your constraints can hold you back and prevent you from achieving your goals.

“Constraint” has French roots and initially meant distress and oppression, but then the meaning changed to “binding.”
In Latin, there’s a similar word, “constrictus” which means “to bind together.”

Here ‘re you can see that nowadays people use the word constraint it more than ever.
constraint word usage

There’s also a verb “constrain” /kənˈstreɪn/ that means to control and limit something or to limit someone’s freedom.

His English was constrained by poor vocabulary.

And it’s also quite easy to remember how to spell “constraint.”
We can split it into con- and strain- and then add -t at the end.

How to use “constraints” in a sentence

I stumbled upon “constraints” in Jim’s Kwick book Limitless. He uses this word quite often and the context really helps to understand how we can use the word as well.

I typed the word in my kindle version of the book and got all the sentences with it. Quite convenient I should say.

Constraints example of usage
So, here are some quotes with “constraints” from the book:

“By investing in this book and now reading it, you are far ahead of most of the population who simply accept their present conditions and constraints.”

“Just as you’ve learned limits from your family, culture, and life experiences, you can unlearn them. These constraints are only temporary obstacles that you can learn to overcome.”

“In most cases, you’re going to find that such constraints don’t apply to anyone willing to push beyond them.”

Cambridge dictionary also gives us a specific structure of using “constraint” in sentences:

a constraint on/to sth
Financial constraints on the company prevent them from employing new staff.

They believe that the new legislation will remove a major constraint to economic expansion.

place/put a constraint on sth
Some external factors placed constraints on the scope of the work that could be undertaken.

the constraints of sth
The constraints of politeness wouldn’t allow her to say what she really thought about his book.


Okay, that’s it. Let me know if it was useful and share in the comments if you had (or still have) constraints that prevented you from achieving your dreams. Or simply share your sentence with “constraints”. It never hurts to practice.

P. S. As always you can see more examples of usage and also practice pronunciation of this word in the context in youngish.

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English Language enthusiast, the founder of and Speaking Club host.
I help English learners to boost their speaking skills and confidence.

9 thoughts on “Learn the word “constraint”: definition and usage

    1. Thanks Vika. It’s very helpful.
      The constrains of shyness don’t allow me to speak English often.

      1. Hey Popi, thank you! Great sentence! You shouldn’t constrain yourself. Join our speaking club and your constraints will disappear.

  1. The new social constraints of the government about Covid19 should prevent the spread of the virus.

  2. Really useful, Vika! Thanks!
    If you want to improve your English skills, you need to recognize what are your constraints and try to overcome it.

  3. Can I say that ? „ My financial constraints don’t allow me to travel a lot. „
    Is it often in use ?

    1. Hey Mario, thank you for your comment) Yes, it’s the correct usage of the word constraint. At the same time, I’d rather use a word ‘limitations’ or ‘lack of money’ in informal conversations and use constraints in formal communication. Hope it helps)

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