Difference Between Constraint and Restraint (with Table)

The difference between constraint and restraint is that while ‘constraint’ connotes the imposition of restrictions over a particular action, ‘restraint’ is commonly employed in sentences to denote the act of holding back something or someone. ‘Restraint’ is a word used to connote the prevention of an act through the implementation of certain control mechanisms. While ‘constraint’ refers to the limitations that deter an individual’s liberty to act freely.

When the word ‘restraint’ is used in a sentence, it implies the limitation of certain actions by the exertion of force to establish control over something or someone. On the other hand, ‘constraint’ implies a limitation imposed on an object or an individual. This distinction of meaning becomes even more apparent when the two words are compared in the domain of mathematics and physics.

Comparison Table Between Constraint and Restraint

Parameters of ComparisonConstraintRestraint
DefinitionThe word ‘constraint’ refers to the act of placing certain restrictions on the behavior of objects or individuals to effectively limit their freedom.The word’ ‘restraint’ refers to the act of using control or force to hold back an object or an individual from performing an action.
Common UsageThe word is often used to connote restrictions in the context of certain problematic situations.The word is used to connote the imposition of limitations on an individual through the use of force or control mechanisms.
Origin of the WordThe word ‘constraint’ has been derived from the old French word ‘constraindre’.The word ‘constraint’ has been derived from the old French word ‘restraindre’.
Mathematical ConnotationThe word ‘constraint’ is an important mathematical concept that implies certain absolute restrictions in a calculation.The word ‘restraint’ refers to an energetic bias in a calculation that forces the equation towards a given restriction.
Alternative UsageThe word ‘constraint’ cannot be used to connote safety devices and tools like a seat belt.The word ‘restraint’ can be used to connote safety implements like seat belts in cars.

What is Constraint?

The word ‘constraint’ is used to connote the restrictions on an individual that operate to curtail his or her freedom. Constraints limit certain actions of individuals in problematic situations. The word ‘constraint’ has originated from the old French term ‘constraindre’, which refers to the endeavor of obstructing certain actions.

Constraints can arise from different factors. They usually arise from certain ingrained values and moral codes. The origin of constraints can be quite varied- ranging from the financial, political, social, legal, or other domains of life.

‘Constraint’ can also be used in the context of restricting one’s relations with another. Alternatively, the word in mathematics can denote absolute restrictions in an equation. Some instances of using the word ‘constraint’ in the English language are demonstrated below:

  1. The family is living under severe financial constraints.
  2. Her mother constrained her freedom.
  3. It will be difficult to overcome all the current political constraints.

What is Restraint?

The word ‘restraint’ is derived from the old French word ‘restraindre’ that literary translates to the ‘act of holding back’. The word connotes the use of controlling force to hold someone or something back. ‘Restraints’ imply certain commonly used measures to delimit the actions that can be performed by an individual.

Restraint may also signify the act of self-control. The term restraint is generally used as an appropriate term to describe a situation when people curb and regulate their own behaviors. ‘Restraint’ can be used to signify an energetic bias in the mathematical field.

Moreover, the term can also be used to connote certain safety tools like seat belts. In such contexts, ‘restraint’ cannot be replaced by ‘constraint’. Some instance of using the word ‘restraint’ in sentences are illustrated below:

  1. It may be necessary to put the patient in restraints.
  2. She abandoned all restraints to express her anger.
  3. Kindly secure the seat restraints before we begin the journey.

Main Differences Between Constraint and Restraint

  1. The main difference between ‘constraint’ and ‘restraint’ can be identified in terms of the meanings of the two terms when used in common conversational English. While the word ‘constraint’ connotes enforcement of certain restrictions on someone or something, the word ‘restraint’ refers to the use of control to hold back someone or something.
  2. The origins of the two words are also different. ‘Constraint’ is derived from the old French word ‘constraindre’ that implies the act of limiting certain actions. ‘Restraint’ is derived from the old French old ‘restraindre’ meaning the act of ‘holding back’.
  3. The usage of each word is also different. The word ‘constraint’ is more frequently used to refer to restrictions in a particular situation or problematic circumstance. The word ‘restraint’ is generally used to refer to the act of holding back a person or limiting a person from performing certain acts.
  4. In the domain of scientific disciplines, the word ‘constraint’ connotes an absolute restriction imposed on a given mathematical calculation, while the word ‘restraint’ refers to an energetic bias that forces the given equation towards a particular restriction.
  5. The word ‘restraint’ can also connote certain safety devices and tools like seat belts. In such a context, the word constraint cannot be used as a substitution for restraint.


The words ‘constraint’ and ‘restraint’ are often used interchangeably in the English language. However, there exists a subtle difference between the two, both in terms of meaning as well as the appropriate contextual usage of each.

The word ‘constraint’ stands for the restriction of an act. It limits or curbs the freedom of an individual. While the word ‘restraint’ connotes controlling someone or something by holding them back. Generally, the former is used in the context of certain problematic and complex situations, while the latter connotes the use of control mechanisms to deter an individual from performing an action.

These words can also be used in various other contexts, including science. Their meanings in the discipline of mathematics are quite different. Similarly, their origins also differ.

Moreover, the former word cannot be used in certain contexts like when referring to safety gears. While the latter is often used to connote various types of safety equipment including seat belts and handcuffs. Such elusive, but important differences must be acknowledged to use each word correctly.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24434843