Difference Wiki

Limitation vs. Constraint: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson & Janet White || Updated on May 23, 2024
A limitation is a restriction that sets a boundary or cap on possibilities, while a constraint is a restriction that imposes a condition or control over actions or processes.

Key Differences

A limitation refers to a boundary or cap that restricts the extent or scope of something. It sets a maximum threshold beyond which one cannot go, such as a limit on the number of items one can purchase or the maximum speed a vehicle can reach. In contrast, a constraint is a condition or restriction that affects how something can be done. Constraints often dictate the methods or processes that must be followed to achieve an objective.
Limitations are often externally imposed and define the upper or lower bounds, while constraints are conditions that affect the process or methodology within those bounds. For example, a project may have a budget limitation (total amount of money available) and also face resource constraints (specific materials available within that budget).
In practical scenarios, limitations are absolute and non-negotiable, while constraints can sometimes be adjusted or worked around with creative solutions. For instance, while a limitation might be the fixed number of hours in a day, a constraint might be the requirement to complete a task within a certain number of those hours, which can be managed through better time allocation.
Limitations often deal with "how much" or "how many," setting quantitative boundaries, whereas constraints typically deal with "how" and "when," influencing the approach and timing of actions.

Comparison Chart


Boundary or cap on possibilities
Condition or restriction on actions


Sets maximum threshold
Imposes rules or conditions


Budget limit, speed limit
Time constraint, resource constraint


Defines outer boundaries
Affects methods and processes


Often absolute
Can sometimes be adjusted

Limitation and Constraint Definitions


A cap that defines the extent to which something can go.
There's a limitation on the number of participants allowed in the event.


A condition that restricts how something can be done.
The project faces a time constraint that requires completion within a month.


A quantitative boundary imposed on an action or capability.
The speed limitation on this road is 60 mph.


A limiting factor that affects the execution of tasks.
The budget constraint forced us to prioritize essential features.


A restriction that sets a maximum threshold or boundary.
The software has a limitation of 100 users per license.


A rule or requirement that influences actions.
Due to space constraints, we had to rearrange the seating plan.


A fixed boundary that cannot be exceeded.
The limitation of the loan amount is $50,000.


A restriction that affects methods or processes.
The resource constraint limited the materials we could use for the construction.


The act of limiting or the state of being limited
He was very successful in his limitation of salt intake.


An operational rule that must be adhered to.
Working within the design constraints, the team created a functional prototype.


A limiting rule or condition; a restriction
Are there any limitations on the agreement?.


The threat or use of force to prevent, restrict, or dictate the action or thought of others.


A shortcoming or defect
We need to overcome our limitations if we want to succeed.


The state of being restricted or confined within prescribed bounds
Soon tired of the constraint of military life.


(Law) A period established by statute during which a lawsuit or criminal prosecution must be initiated.


One that restricts, limits, or regulates; a check
Ignored all moral constraints in his pursuit of success.


The act of limiting or the state of being limited.


Embarrassed reserve or reticence; awkwardness
"All constraint had vanished between the two, and they began to talk" (Edith Wharton).


A restriction; a boundary, real or metaphorical, caused by some thing or some circumstance.
Getting into his wheelchair after his amputation, it felt like a limitation you could roll in.
He understood the exam material, but his fear was a limitation he could not overcome.


Something that constrains; a restriction.


An imperfection or shortcoming that limits something's use or value.


An irresistible force or compulsion.


(law) A time period after which some legal action may no longer be brought.
The lawyer obtained impunity by dragging his obviously guilty client's case beyond the ten-year limitation.


The repression of one's feelings.


The act of limiting; the state or condition of being limited; as, the limitation of his authority was approved by the council.
They had no right to mistake the limitation . . . of their own faculties, for an inherent limitation of the possible modes of existence in the universe.


(mathematics) A condition that a solution to an optimization problem must satisfy.


That which limits; a restriction; a qualification; a restraining condition, defining circumstance, or qualifying conception; as, limitations of thought.
The cause of error is ignorance what restraints and limitations all principles have in regard of the matter whereunto they are applicable.


(databases) A linkage or other restriction that maintains database integrity.


A certain precinct within which friars were allowed to beg, or exercise their functions; also, the time during which they were permitted to exercise their functions in such a district.


The act of constraining, or the state of being constrained; that which compels to, or restrains from, action; compulsion; restraint; necessity.
Long imprisonment and hard constraint.
Not by constraint, but by my choice, I came.


A limited time within or during which something is to be done.
You have stood your limitation, and the tribunesEndue you with the people's voice.


The state of being physically constrained;
Dogs should be kept under restraint


A certain period limited by statute after which the claimant shall not enforce his claims by suit.


A device that retards something's motion;
The car did not have proper restraints fitted


A principle that limits the extent of something;
I am willing to accept certain restrictions on my movements


The act of constraining; the threat or use of force to control the thoughts or behavior of others


The quality of being limited or restricted;
It is a good plan but it has serious limitations


The greatest amount of something that is possible or allowed;
There are limits on the amount you can bet
It is growing rapidly with no limitation in sight


(law) a time period after which suits cannot be brought;
Statute of limitations


An act of limiting or restricting (as by regulation)


A condition that restricts the overall scope or range.
The project's budget limitation prevented us from hiring additional staff.


Can limitations be changed?

Limitations are often fixed and non-negotiable, such as legal limits.

What is a constraint?

A constraint is a condition or restriction that imposes a control over actions or processes.

Can constraints be adjusted?

Constraints can sometimes be adjusted or worked around with creative solutions.

How do limitations impact planning?

Limitations define the outer boundaries within which planning must occur.

What is a limitation?

A limitation is a restriction that sets a boundary or cap on possibilities.

How do limitations differ from constraints?

Limitations set maximum thresholds, while constraints affect how tasks are executed within those thresholds.

How do constraints impact decision-making?

Constraints influence the methods and processes, affecting how decisions are implemented.

Do limitations affect overall goals?

Limitations can restrict the overall scope of goals but not necessarily the methodology to achieve them.

What is an example of a limitation?

A budget limitation restricting the total amount of money available for a project.

Are limitations always quantitative?

Yes, limitations typically set quantitative boundaries, such as amounts or numbers.

Are constraints always related to methods?

Constraints often relate to methods, timing, and resources but can also include other operational factors.

Do constraints affect the final outcome?

Constraints influence the process, which can impact the final outcome, depending on how they are managed.

Can a limitation also be a constraint?

A limitation can act as a constraint if it imposes specific conditions on how something must be done.

How do constraints influence project timelines?

Constraints can dictate the timing and scheduling of tasks within a project.

What is an example of a constraint?

A time constraint requiring a task to be completed within a specific period.

Can limitations be internal?

Limitations can be internal (organizational policies) or external (legal regulations).

How do limitations influence resource allocation?

Limitations can cap the total resources available, guiding how they are allocated.

Can constraints be beneficial?

Constraints can drive creativity and efficiency by requiring innovative solutions within given restrictions.

Are limitations more restrictive than constraints?

Limitations are often more absolute, whereas constraints can sometimes be managed or negotiated.

Why is understanding limitations and constraints important?

Understanding both helps in planning and executing tasks efficiently, ensuring realistic and achievable goals.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Co-written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons