Difference Between Constraint and Restraint

Constraint vs Restraint

Constraint and restraint are two English words that are very confusing for most people because of their similarities in meanings. There are some who even use these words interchangeably. However, on a closer look it becomes clear that there are clear differences between the two terms. These differences will be highlighted in this article, to enable the reader to use the words wisely in different contexts.


Constraint is a word that refers to something that limits our freedom of action. We often hear about time constraints in finishing a project or budgetary constraints that tell us how shortage of time or paucity of funds sanctioned in the budget can affect the quality of a project. Sometimes it so happens that a building or a structure needs to be completed within a short time period as it needs to be inaugurated or declared open by a certain important date. This is when time constraints are said to be dominant and hover in the minds of engineers and builders. Thus, it becomes clear that constraint is something that limits our freedom of action or choice. If you are doing a business, the constraining factors are government policies, interest rates of the banks, and some that are business specific. Your choices are limited by these constraining factors.

In all societies, the personal liberties of individuals have been subject to some constraints so as to stop people from acting in a manner that may be detrimental to the society at large. It seems then that constraints are limiting factors that are imposed upon people and organizations by the authorities. Even the morals and customs in a society are constraints placed upon individual and group behavior.


If someone is holding himself back, controlling or limiting himself, he is said to be restraining himself. Anything that controls the actions of someone is then referred to as a restraining factor. If a person shows calm behavior when provoked by others through abuses, he is said to observe restraint or exercise restraint. So, a person not retaliating in the face of severe provocation is showing admirable restraint.

A device to control the movement of a pet is called a restraint as in the case of a dog when you have the leash in your hand. In this case, leash acts as a restraint as it helps in controlling the movement of the dog.

What is the difference between Constraint and Restraint?

• Both restraint and constraint refer to limitations placed upon things and people

• While outside restrictions like laws and customs cause constraints, restraints are inside restrictions that an individual places upon himself

• You restrain yourself from eating favorite junk food as you know it is harmful for your health

• Shortage of funds and shortage of time are often described as budgetary constraints and time constraints