American English

Definition of restraint noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable, usually plural] restraint (on somebody/something) a rule, a fact, an idea, etc. that limits or controls what people can do The government has imposed export restraints on some products. social restraints on drinking alcohol Thesauruslimitrestriction control constraint restraint limitationThese are all words for something that limits what you can do or what can happen.limit the greatest or smallest amount of something that is allowed:The government has set strict limits on spending. the speed limitrestriction (somewhat formal) a rule or law that limits what you can do:There are no restrictions on the amount of money you can withdraw.control (often in compounds) the act of limiting or managing something; a method of doing this:crowd controlconstraint (somewhat formal) a fact or decision that limits what you can do:The agency is operating under severe budget constraints.restraint (somewhat formal) a decision, a rule, an idea, etc. that limits what you can do; the act of limiting something because it is necessary or sensible to do so:The new law has imposed restraints on exports to Russia.limitation the act or process of limiting something; a rule, fact, or condition that limits something:They would resist any limitation of their powers.restriction, constraint, restraint, or limitation?These are all things that limit what you can do. A restriction is a rule or law that is made by someone in authority. A constraint is something that exists rather than something that is made, although it may exist as a result of someone's decision. A restraint is also something that exists: it can exist outside yourself, as the result of someone else's decision; but it can also exist inside you, as a fear of what other people may think or as your own feeling about what is acceptable:moral/social/cultural restraints. A limitation is more general and can be a rule that someone makes or a fact or condition that exists.Patterns limits/restrictions/controls/constraints/restraints/limitations on something limits/limitations to something severe limits/restrictions/controls/constraints/restraints/limitations tight limits/restrictions/controls/constraints to impose/remove limits/restrictions/controls/constraints/restraints/limitations to ease/lift restrictions/controls/constraints/restraints
  2. 2[uncountable] the act of controlling or limiting something because it is necessary or sensible to do so wage restraint They said that they would fight without restraint (= completely freely) for what they wanted.
  3. 3[uncountable] the quality of behaving calmly and with control synonym self-control The police appealed to the crowd for restraint. He exercised considerable restraint in ignoring the insults.
  4. 4[uncountable] (formal) the use of physical force to control someone who is behaving in a violent way the physical restraint of prisoners
  5. 5[countable] (formal) a type of seat belt or safety device Children must use an approved child restraint or adult seat belt.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: restraint