noun, often attributive
\ ˈchān \

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 \

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


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The flight was diverted to Shemya Island, which is part of the Aleutian chain off the coast of Alaska. Asia Fields, The Seattle Times, "Plane from Beijing reaches Seattle after 12-hour unscheduled stop on remote Alaskan island," 26 Dec. 2018 Disruption of the global supply chain alone would raise costs of nearly all products. Phillip Molnar,, "Can the U.S. economy withstand a trade war?," 13 July 2018 The first is underway in Arlington, Texas, in the Arlington Entertainment District outside the Texas Rangers ballpark, and represents an expansion of the Loews chain into St. Louis and a continued expansion in the Midwest. Meredith Cohn,, "Cordish Cos. building hotel in complex adjacent to Cardinals' Busch Stadium," 10 July 2018 As a result, the company has fared better than many bigger chains that have had to close hundreds of stores. Suzanne Kapner, WSJ, "Blake Nordstrom, a Scion of Retail Dynasty, Has Died," 2 Jan. 2019 All of this growth happened as other supermarket chains shut down stores and let leases expire, which left plenty of retail spaces for Whole Foods and Amazon to snap up. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Amazon is reportedly bringing Whole Foods to US suburbs with Prime Now delivery," 30 Dec. 2018 This catalyst than combines the remaining hydrocarbon molecules to create chains large enough for jet fuel. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Virgin 747 Completes Transatlantic Flight With Fuel Made Partly From Industrial Waste," 5 Oct. 2018 The Canadian drug store chain Shoppers Drug Mart told CBC News that Hussain worked part time at one of their locations. Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News, "Toronto mass shooting suspect was known to police due to mental health issues, report says," 2 Oct. 2018 Jennifer Bowers, General Merchandise Manager for A Pea in the Pod, the largest maternity chain in the U.S., says pants and jeans are top performers for the retailer, particularly in the designer category. Leah Bourne, Glamour, "The Big Business of Maternity Denim," 24 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Men, women, a toddler and a baby are chained with shackles that were replicated from real chains found at the Cape Coast Slave Castle. Erica Ayisi, The Root, "Lynching Memorial: Ghanaian Artist Hopes Sculpture Captures Shared Pain Between African Americans and the Motherland," 7 May 2018 The release states that the woman told police that she had been handcuffed, shackled and chained to a bed in the house. William Axford, Houston Chronicle, "Texas man and woman accused of chaining woman to a bed, forcing her to be their slave," 1 Feb. 2018 Her great-great-grandfather Charlie Lewis was the oldest of 110 slaves bought in West Africa, chained in the hull of the Clotilda and sailed across the Atlantic to the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta in Alabama in 1860. Sandra E. Garcia And Matthew Haag, New York Times, "Descendants’ Stories of the Clotilda Slave Ship Drew Doubts. Now Some See Validation.," 25 Jan. 2018 Before they were discovered, the 13 siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 29, were found living in squalor and malnourished and were chained and padlocked to beds. Matt Naham, ajc, "13 siblings rescued in California will live in separate homes," 24 Jan. 2018 No double-parked cars, no errant trash cans, no bikes chained to fences. Alexandra Lange, Curbed, "Let’s organize the city outside our front door with as much care as we do our homes," 30 Aug. 2018 Immigration agents reportedly place handcuffs on the newly adult detainees, chain their handcuffs to their waists, shackle their legs together, and drive them to immigration jails. Christianna Silva, Teen Vogue, "ICE Is Detaining Teens on Their 18th Birthdays," 24 Aug. 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.

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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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Learn More about chain

Dictionary Entries near chain


chai latte




chain armor

chain banking

Statistics for chain

Last Updated

21 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for chain

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

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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 \

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 \

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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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).


a complex dispute or argument

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Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
True or False

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