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 In a Rudd Center survey published last year, 91 percent of parents reported purchasing lunch or dinner for their child in the past week at one of the four largest fast-food restaurant chains, up from 79 percent in 2010 and 83 percent in 2013. Emily Heil, Washington Post, "The Happy Meal, a triumph of marketing blamed for childhood obesity, is turning 40," 6 Nov. 2019 Needing the onside kick with only two timeouts remaining, Lynn English was unable to recover and all Tewksbury was tasked with was moving the chains., "TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury football team knows it has unfinished business to tend to.," 3 Nov. 2019 Montgomery would have gained far more than the yardage needed to move the chains. Brad Biggs,, "Column: Matt Nagy has lost his aggressiveness, adding another layer to the Bears’ mess," 3 Nov. 2019 The 49ers, though, were able to move the chains three times and run out the clock to preserve the win. Bob Mcmanaman, azcentral, "Cardinals make it interesting, but can't match undefeated 49ers, falling 28-25," 31 Oct. 2019 Consumer groups give many of the top restaurant chains in the United States failing grades for their policies regarding antibiotics used in their beef supply for burgers and other beef dishes. Erika Edwards, NBC News, "Consumer groups rate fast-food chains on their use of beef produced with antibiotics," 31 Oct. 2019 Several feet to our left, four elephants are tethered by chains in different spots around the yard. Kirsten Luce, National Geographic, "In this Thai village, life revolves around 300 captive elephants," 29 Oct. 2019 Moore hit Kelce on third-and-3 long enough to move the chains, but Packers cornerback Chandler Sullivan reached in front of Kelce and batted down the pass before the tight end could secure it. Jori Epstein, USA TODAY, "'Them boys was lights out': Chiefs size up Matt Moore's start in place of Patrick Mahomes," 28 Oct. 2019 The bump pushed Burrow away from stepping out of bounds and allowed him to move the chains. Giana Han, al, "Grading Auburn’s 23-20 loss to LSU," 27 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb What if there was a wreck or derailment, chaining your brand’s name to a disaster? John Brant, Popular Mechanics, "It Was Supposed to Be the Safest Building in the World. Then It Cracked.," 25 Oct. 2019 Investigators said Nosey was chained by her legs and was unable to move. Leada Gore |, al, "Ex-owner’s animal license revoked, Nosey, ‘saddest elephant in the world,’ at home in sanctuary," 15 Oct. 2019 Stop by the inaugural outpost of beloved fashion and interiors chain Nicobar and pick up linen dresses and jumpsuits at Cord. Sarah Khan, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Six-Stop Shopping Guide to Mumbai," 9 Sep. 2019 They were shackled, chained to their desks and surrounded by a team of armed U.S. marshals, who escorted them in and out of the courtroom. Nate Gartrell, The Mercury News, "‘Build an army’: Aryan Brotherhood leaders attempted to rule over all white California prison gangs, feds say," 31 Aug. 2019 Officers say three other people were chained to three excavators with their arms encased in steel pipes up to their elbows. USA TODAY, "Disney surprise, foreign feral hogs, porous pavement: News from around our 50 states," 13 Sep. 2019 The first form of violence is the violence of the domestic slave trade itself, where people are chained, and forced to march hundreds of miles or are shipped around the cape of Florida. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "How slavery became America’s first big business," 16 Aug. 2019 Two of the arrests were for people who chained themselves to the entrances of the capitol. CBS News, "California Governor Gavin Newsom signs bill limiting vaccine exemptions," 9 Sep. 2019 Tyree brought Kozakiewicz to his home in Virginia and held her in captivity for four days, raping and beating her and chaining her to the floor by a dog collar. Diana Pearl,, "How Jayme Closs, Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard and Others Survived Headline-Making Abductions," 19 Aug. 2019

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

11 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Chain.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 November 2019.

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on chain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chain

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


not agreeing with established beliefs

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