noun, often attributive
\ ˈchān How to pronounce chain (audio) \

Definition of chain

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : a series of usually metal links or rings connected to or fitted into one another and used for various purposes (such as support, restraint, transmission of mechanical power, or measurement)
b : a series of links used or worn as an ornament or insignia
c(1) : a measuring instrument of 100 links used in surveying
(2) : a unit of length equal to 66 feet (about 20 meters)
2 : something that confines, restrains, or secures
3a : a series of things linked, connected, or associated together a chain of events a mountain chain
b : a group of enterprises or institutions of the same kind or function usually under a single ownership, management, or control fast-food chains
c : a number of atoms or chemical groups united like links in a chain


chained; chaining; chains

Definition of chain (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to obstruct or protect by a chain
2 : to fasten, bind, or connect with or as if with a chain also : fetter


biographical name
\ ˈchān How to pronounce Chain (audio) \

Definition of Chain (Entry 3 of 3)

Sir Ernst Boris 1906–1979 British (German-born) biochemist

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of chain in a Sentence


We'll need 25 feet of chain for the pulley. The new book chronicles the chain of events leading up to the crime. They own a chain of organic grocery stores. The hotel chain recently opened a new hotel in Hong Kong.


She chained her bicycle to the post and went inside. chaining up the dog in the backyard
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Cersei, meanwhile, wears head-to-toe black leather, embellished with chains and plated armor. Glamour, "Why All the Game of Thrones Women Are Dressing Alike in Season 8," 12 Apr. 2019 For instance, for the Limelight Chain Bag, the chain handle is removable and can be replaced with a crossbody leather strap, which makes the bag a perfect day to night piece. Asia Milia Ware, Teen Vogue, "How Hanako Maeda Is Using Her Japanese Culture To Influence Her Designs," 9 Apr. 2019 Plus, the lock-and-key chain accents and dark cherry–colored interior give the otherwise all-black tote such a gorgeous aesthetic. Hana Hong, Marie Claire, "The Item I Wear to Death: My Marc Jacobs Tote," 3 Apr. 2019 Originally, the brand launched the line in just 250 locations, but after a mere six months of mega-success, the retailer requested a chain-wide expansion due to such high demand. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "You Can Now Shop Peach & Lily Skin-Care Products at Ulta Stores," 29 Mar. 2019 There’s a short reveal trailer below, including glimpses of chain-reaction combat mishaps and the squad selection screen. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Free copies of Morrowind, Divinity: Original Sin 2 gets a tactics spinoff," 25 Mar. 2019 Fleming accessorized her look with a chain necklace with a lion medallion from an antique shop in Hudson, New York. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "This Look Is Money: How Three Editors Dress for Work," 22 Mar. 2019 By the end of the nine-month training program, Larson could deadlift 225 pounds, perform box jumps higher than her waist height, and crank out push-ups with a weighted chain around her core. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "Here's How Brie Larson Trained to Play Captain Marvel," 7 Mar. 2019 Pizza Hut The pizza chain under Yum Brands might look like a front-runner. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "Pizza Hut, Kroger, Republic Bank? Who wants Cardinal Stadium naming rights," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Unlike other inmates who are handcuffed behind their backs, ultra-security inmates wear leg irons and belly chains – with their hands chained to their waists – any time they are removed from their cells. Sara Jean Green, The Seattle Times, "Escape attempt leads to elevated security status for Kent murder suspect," 12 July 2018 Employees in the downtown innovation hubs didn’t want to be chained to desks 10 hours a day. Ally Marotti,, "Suburban companies battle tech giants for talent. Downtown office spaces are their secret weapon.," 21 June 2018 Gaming laptops can seem like a great option for anyone who doesn't want to be chained to a desk, or can't afford to have a desktop computer for gaming and then a laptop for everything else. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Razer's Absurd New Laptop Is a Multi-Screen Transformer," 5 Jan. 2017 But nothing like this where a child was left chained up for an extended period of time. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "An Alabama Teen Was Reportedly Found Naked and Chained in Basement," 22 Sep. 2018 Within minutes, Cleveland Police discovered Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who had been chained, tortured and abused along with Berry for a decade. Elaine Aradillas,, "Cleveland Kidnapping Survivors: Where Are They 5 Years Later?," 6 May 2018 At their new mark's home, Sean discovers a woman, Katie (Kerry Condon), bridled and chained to a chair (perfectly in line with the house’s ostentatious horse decor). Katie Walsh,, "Tech-smart thriller 'Bad Samaritan' mines modern-day paranoia for chills," 2 May 2018 The folksy 48-year-old activist who admires Mahatma Gandhi and Hispanic farmworker leader César Chávez was chained to a lamppost in front of a migrant detention center in Tapachula on Tuesday. Juan Montes, WSJ, "Three Central American Migrant Groups Press North," 30 Oct. 2018 And when they were caught disobeying rules, they would be chained up and called the devil. Paloma Esquivel,, "Judge hears teen's 911 call in alleged abuse of siblings: 'My two little sisters right now are chained up'," 21 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of chain


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chain


Middle English cheyne, from Anglo-French chaene, from Latin catena

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about chain

Dictionary Entries near chain


chai latte




chain armor

chain banking

Statistics for chain

Last Updated

15 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for chain

The first known use of chain was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for chain



English Language Learners Definition of chain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a series of usually metal links or rings that are connected to each other in a line and used for supporting heavy things, for holding things together, for decoration, etc.
: a chain that is attached to the arms or legs of a prisoner
: a series or group of things or people that are connected to each other in some way



English Language Learners Definition of chain (Entry 2 of 2)

: to fasten, hold, or connect (someone or something) with a chain


\ ˈchān How to pronounce chain (audio) \

Kids Definition of chain

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a series of connected links or rings usually of metal She wore a gold chain around her neck.
2 : a series of things joined together as if by links a chain of mountains a chain of events
3 : a group of businesses that have the same name and sell the same products or services a chain of grocery stores


chained; chaining

Kids Definition of chain (Entry 2 of 2)

: to fasten, bind, or connect with or as if with a chain I chained my bike to a tree.


\ ˈchān How to pronounce chain (audio) \

Medical Definition of chain

1 : a series of things (as bacteria) linked, connected, or associated together
2 : a number of atoms or chemical groups united like links in a chain

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on chain

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with chain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chain

Spanish Central: Translation of chain

Nglish: Translation of chain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of chain for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about chain

Comments on chain

What made you want to look up chain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an act or instance of returning to life

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!