Definition of chain in English:

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Pronunciation: /CHān/


1A connected flexible series of metal links used for fastening or securing objects and pulling or supporting loads.
Example sentences
  • In that performance, the magician was tied with metal chains and secured by 50 locks.
  • Four men in a stolen red Vauxhall Cavalier attacked the stand-alone cash machine by placing a metal chain around it and pulling it out onto the pavement.
  • The second time he did the trick with me, he pulled the chain… and the links kinked up and caught together, preventing the loop from falling apart.
1.1 (chains) A series of metal links used to confine a prisoner: the drug dealer is being kept in chains
More example sentences
  • In that performance, the magician was tied with metal chains and secured by 50 locks.
  • Four men in a stolen red Vauxhall Cavalier attacked the stand-alone cash machine by placing a metal chain around it and pulling it out onto the pavement.
  • The second time he did the trick with me, he pulled the chain… and the links kinked up and caught together, preventing the loop from falling apart.
1.2A series of decorative metal links worn as a decoration; a necklace.
Example sentences
  • This example would have been worn on a chain round the neck, proudly displayed like an order or badge of loyalty.
  • He approached a car queueing at the drive-through, reached through the window and grabbed a gold chain from round the driver's neck.
  • Dressed up in a track suit with a baseball cap, rings on his finger and a silver chain round his neck, the 25 years old explains to the Vacuum how to get most of the brew.
1.3 (chains) short for snow chains.
1.4 (chains) A force or factor that binds or restricts someone: the chains of illness
More example sentences
  • Are we meant to consider that the arrival of the electronic book signals a new freedom for the reader, casing off the restrictive chains of the traditional book?
  • Do the work, stay in the shadows, accept what you are given and never think of organizing to challenge the structure that holds you in chains.
  • In a slave society, where body and mind are in chains, music portrays the fairer sex as a creature to be enslaved.
2A sequence of items of the same type forming a line: he kept the chain of buckets supplied with water
More example sentences
  • The Balaton Highland is a chain of rolling hills north of Lake Balaton and south of the Veszprem Plateau, rising some 200 m above the lake level.
  • The day had been bright until then, but we'd noticed a bank of fog building up steadily on the outside of the island chain, flopping its forelock languidly over the mountain ridges, waiting for a breeze to give it a leg up.
  • In the northwest Pacific you can see a whole series of seamount chains that were formed by hotspots.
2.1A sequence or series of connected elements: a chain of events the food chain
More example sentences
  • It's a chain of successful events strung together to accomplish one goal.
  • The uncertainty surrounding him would cause a chain of events and interviews, due diligence any team looking to acquire Williams in a trade would insist upon.
  • The full direction is therefore necessary where ‘… lies constitute an important element in the chain of proof.’
2.2A group of establishments, such as hotels, stores, or restaurants, owned by the same company: the nation’s largest hotel chain [as modifier]: a chain restaurant
More example sentences
  • His company has the size to survive such a hit, he says, but many travel companies and hotel chains have been cutting staff, reducing shifts and eliminating holiday pay and benefits.
  • These wines will be offered to other distributors, as well as to key retailers and small hotel and restaurant chains across the country.
  • I own a hotel, a chain of restaurants, several factories and shares in shipping, insurance and defence.
2.3A range of mountains: a chain of volcanic ridges
More example sentences
  • The sun turned the chain of mountains on the western horizon an amber red, but it was slowly engulfed by the creeping darkness.
  • Most of it is in the Serra de Tramuntana, the chain of mountains that runs across the north of the island.
  • South along the chain of mountains you'll find the peak of Eriagon above the lake at the western entrance of Muriah.
2.4A part of a molecule consisting of a number of atoms (typically carbon) bonded together in a linear sequence.
Example sentences
  • Lewis structures can also be written for more complex molecules that have a chain of bonded atoms instead of a single central atom.
  • Fatty acids that contain double bonds between carbon atoms in their chain are termed unsaturated fatty acids.
  • Thermoplastics consist of long carbon chains that are covalently bonded to chains of other atoms.
2.5A figure in a quadrille or similar dance, in which dancers meet and pass each other in a continuous sequence.
Example sentences
  • The corps performs adaptations of folk-dance like material: chains, circle dances, and crossing steps.
  • It could be prompted as a quadrille or used as the figure in a singing call or adapted to a patter routine by having the Four Ladies Chain instead of doing the Allemande Left, etc.
  • Step combinations are given for nineteen quadrille figures, such as "right and left," "hands round," "English chain," "ladies' chain," and "balance."
3A jointed measuring line consisting of linked metal rods.
Example sentences
  • There was also in evidence picket poles, rods, chains and all the instrumental paraphernalia of field work.
  • The chain was a surveyors chain of 22 yds, two men and an umpire measuring the hit.
  • The offices of the two ministers of the law were at about equal distance, and resort was had to a surveyor's chain, to ascertain which was nearest.
3.1A measure of length equivalent to a chain (66 ft.).
Example sentences
  • Shallow streams and intermittent streams without well defined channel or banks are not meandered, even when more than 3 chains wide.
  • Regular lots are 30 chains wide and 66.67 chains in depth.
  • The original family home built in 1123 AD is a traditional square Norman castle four chains wide with turrets two chains high at each of the four corners.
3.2 American Football A measuring chain of ten yards, used in the determination of first downs.
Example sentences
  • The answer is nothing, and I think there may be more of them in the college game because of the rule that stops the clock to reset the chains after every first down.
  • So let's make a rule that the clock stops to reset the chains and the line of scrimmage after every first down in the last five minutes of each half.
  • Having cameras mounted on the end holders for the First Down Chain would have the perfect angle to let you see whether or not the football passed the marker.
4 (chains) A structure of planks projecting horizontally from a sailing ship’s sides abreast of the masts, used to widen the basis for the shrouds.
Formed earlier of iron plates
Example sentences
  • She was accidentally rammed by HMS Warrior in thick weather in the winter of 1867, losing boats, chains, shrouds and back stays.
  • Special platforms were built for the leadsman, but the term chains was retained.
  • To stand "in the chains" means to stand upon the chain-wale between two shrouds, from where the leadsman heaves the hand-lead to measure water depth.


[with object]
1Fasten or secure with a chain: she chained her bicycle to the railing
More example sentences
  • There was nothing we could have done to make this more secure, short of chaining the airplanes to the ground.
  • Once in place, the loadmasters had to chain the heavily armored vehicles securely to the floor.
  • For Brockovich, being an environmentalist is not about chaining oneself to a tree but ‘intercepting deceit.’
secure, fasten, tie, tether, hitch;
1.1Confine with a chain: he had been chained up figurative as an actuary you will not be chained to a desk
More example sentences
  • Movement was restricted because I was chained up, there was little chance of exercise.
  • I was chained up for most of the previous four and a half years.
  • It never said exactly what it was he did, but it must have been pretty bad, because he was all chained up.


pull (or yank) someone's chain

informal Tease someone, typically by leading them to believe something untrue.
Example sentences
  • When you can't tell if the tech is dead serious or yanking your chain, it's time to hang up.
  • I've let this slander pass, because I think the audience realizes he's just yanking my chain, and because he was also kind enough to invite me to guest host the show.
  • That should have tipped me off that he was either yanking my chain or wasn't someone to be taken seriously.


Middle English: from Old French chaine, chaeine, from Latin catena 'a chain'.

Words that rhyme with chain

abstain, appertain, arcane, arraign, ascertain, attain, Bahrain, bane, blain, brain, Braine, Cain, Caine, campaign, cane, cinquain, champagne, champaign, Champlain, Charmaine, chicane, chow mein, cocaine, Coleraine, Coltrane, complain, constrain, contain, crane, Dane, deign, demesne, demi-mondaine, detain, disdain, domain, domaine, drain, Duane, Dwane, Elaine, entertain, entrain, explain, fain, fane, feign, gain, Germaine, germane, grain, humane, Hussein, inane, Jain, Jane, Jermaine, Kane, La Fontaine, lain, lane, legerdemain, Lorraine, main, Maine, maintain, mane, mise en scène, Montaigne, moraine, mundane, obtain, ordain, Paine, pane, pertain, plain, plane, Port-of-Spain, profane, rain, Raine, refrain, reign, rein, retain, romaine, sane, Seine, Shane, Sinn Fein, skein, slain, Spain, Spillane, sprain, stain, strain, sustain, swain, terrain, thane, train, twain, Ujjain, Ukraine, underlain, urbane, vain, vane, vein, Verlaine, vicereine, wain, wane, Wayne

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: chain

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