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

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Examples of chain in a Sentence

Noun 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. Verb She chained her bicycle to the post and went inside. chaining up the dog in the backyard
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Companies further down the auto supply chain have also felt the impact of Trump's trade policy. NBC News, "Trump steel tariffs raised prices, shriveled up demand, led to job losses, some Michigan workers say," 9 Oct. 2020 Sporting goods makers of all sorts, including some whose supply chain was disrupted by the virus and the trade issues with China, have started to poke their heads into the small shop at 500 West Avenue. Julie Jag, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Algae in skis? Salt Lake company believes its technology could change the snow-sports industry," 8 Oct. 2020 The chief technology and operations officer, Lavernos, 52, is in charge of the crucial supply chain for L’Oreal’s 7 billion cosmetics products produced annually. Angelina Rascouet,, "L’Oreal Is Set to Name New CEO Soon. Here’s a Shortlist," 8 Oct. 2020 Rather than make the effort and financial commitment to diversify the supply chain and bring some production home, U.S. officials largely ignored the warnings and even allowed emergency stockpiles to become depleted. Star Tribune, "5 takeaways: AP/FRONTLINE investigate medical supply chains," 6 Oct. 2020 If the environmental stress results in smaller buds and lower yields, that could lead to losses up and down the supply chain, Ellsworth said. Alicia Wallace, CNN, "'No more tears left:' How wildfires are ravaging the West Coast cannabis industry," 6 Oct. 2020 That’s because a drug’s supply chain is a key part of quality, and short supply chains are less susceptible to disruption. Martin Vantrieste, STAT, "The U.S. needs to support American-made medicines," 5 Oct. 2020 Most were multi-billion-dollar projects with a global supply chain. Anchorage Daily News, "Candidate Q&A: Alaska House District 28 — James Kaufman," 3 Oct. 2020 The fashion industry’s global supply chain is one of the most harmful to our planet right next to the airline industry. Harper's BAZAAR, "Sami Miro Vintage is a Love Letter to the '90s," 2 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb At the same time, the interstate highway system gave rise to cross-country refrigerated trucking, which could efficiently deliver produce from places like California’s Central Valley to chain supermarkets nationwide. Richard Campanella,, "Now forgotten, New Orleans was once dotted with 'truck farms' as city grew," 1 Oct. 2020 Our bodies use twenty amino acids to create proteins; our cells chain them together, following instructions in our DNA. Matthew Hutson, The New Yorker, "Scientists Advance on One of Technology’s Holy Grails," 18 Sep. 2020 Simply making more coins won’t completely solve the problem — hence the U.S. Coin Task Force, established in July to pinpoint how to kick the supply chain back into gear. Rachel Siegel, Washington Post, "A penny pinch: How America fell into a great coin shortage," 1 Sep. 2020 One Democratic lawmaker went so far as to chain himself to a blue mailbox. Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY, "Trump's Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify before Senate panel about postal delays," 21 Aug. 2020 British companies Lloyd's of London, the world's oldest insurance market, and pub chain Greene King acknowledged their ties to the slave trade earlier this week. Hanna Ziady, CNN, "Bank of England joins British companies in apologizing for slavery," 19 June 2020 The Seattle Surge and Los Angeles Guerrillas remain at the bottom, struggling to chain wins at any events. Sean Collins, Dallas News, "Adapt or get left behind: Top Call of Duty League teams show what separates them from the pack," 9 June 2020 But, after the quarantine began, the subway was deserted and both side entrances were chained shut. Peter Hessler, The New Yorker, "Life on Lockdown in China," 23 Mar. 2020 The effect of the order on Wednesday was felt immediately as parks workers began chaining up playground gates and shooing children off swings. New York Times, "Cooped-Up Children Lose Refuge as N.Y.C. Playgrounds Are Closed," 1 Apr. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for chain

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for chain

Last Updated

15 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Chain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for chain


How to pronounce Chain (audio)

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

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