Difference Between Constraint and Restraint

Main Difference – Constraint vs Restraint

Constraint and restraint are two words that are very similar and they are often used interchangeably because of this similarity. However, there is a distinct difference between Constraint and Restraint and they cannot be used as synonyms. The main difference between constraint and restraint is that constraint refers to a limitation or a restriction while restraint refers to the action of holding something or someone back.

Constraint – Meaning and Usage

This word is derived from the Old French word “constraindre” and it is used to indicate a limitation or a restriction. In simple words, it refers to something that prevents you from doing something. For example look at the sentence, “Time constraints made it impossible to finish the project”This sentence indicates how the shortage of time affected the project. Similar examples include,

“He stated that liberty is the freedom from constraint.”

“They couldn’t complete the project due to budget constraints.”

“While there is less constraint on girls there than anywhere else, a wife submits to stricter obligations.”

Constraint can also refer to Stiffness of manner and reserve in relations between people                 

It was the first time in years that they talked with each other without constraint.”

       “If a king wants to be free of constraint, disguising himself as a beggar is his best option. ”               

Not that the term constraint is used in many fields like mathematics, computing and business and it has different meanings depending on the context. Only the general meanings of the word  are explained here.

main difference - constraint vs restraint

Time constraints made it impossible to finish the construction project .

Restraint – Meaning and Usage

The term ‘restraint’ is derived from the Old French term “restreindre” meaning ‘to hold back’. The noun restraint can have several meanings.

 Restraint can refer to,

The action of keeping someone or something under control.

“He wanted to introduce a policy of restraint in public spending.”

“Researchers use various restraint techniques to handle laboratory animals.”

Restriction of personal liberty or freedom of movement

“She started behaving aggressively and needed physical restraint.”

“The meeting noted that the Claimant frequently requires physical restraint and at times intra muscular medication.

A device for restraining, as a harness for body

“The prisoner pulled at the restraints in the dungeon walls.”

“They did not want to take their child in a car that didn’t have child restraints, but they did not want to waste any more time either.”

Self control or moderate behavior

“It took all his restraint to move away from the crying child.”

“As general and president, he employed the power available to him but with moderation and restraint.”

difference between constraint and restraint

Difference Between Constraint and Restraint


Constraint refers to a limitation or a restriction.

Restraint refers to the action of holding something or someone back.


Constraint more often refers to a problem or situation.

Restraint more often refers to a restriction on a person.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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