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

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Macy’s laid off 3,900 corporate staffers, or about 3% of its entire workforce, plus an undisclosed number of store, supply-chain and customer-support employees. WSJ, "The Business Report Card: How 12 Key Companies Have Fared in 2020," 5 Sep. 2020 America’s second largest grocery chain, Albertsons Co., acquired meal kit startup Plated for about $200 million in 2017. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "When a venture capital-backed merger goes awry," 4 Sep. 2020 In conjunction with other divine instruments such as Iroke Ifa (diviner tapper), Ikin Ifa (sacred palm or kola nuts) and opele Ifa (divination chain), the tray is used to determine the verses associated with patron’s particular predicament., "Yoruba priests use divination tray to answer questions, solve dilemmas in the community," 1 Sep. 2020 Isaac was looking smoldery with a quarantine beard, a gold chain, an Airpod, and a black T-shirt. Elif Batuman, The New Yorker, "Can Greek Tragedy Get Us Through the Pandemic?," 1 Sep. 2020 Through a series of chemical reactions, the long-chain carbon compounds found in crude oil can be turned into chemicals capable of removing oil stains from your clothes. Akshat Rathi,, "Unilever Will Spend $1 Billion to Rid Cleaning Products of Fossil Fuels by 2030," 1 Sep. 2020 The seafood chain, which has generated about $2.4 billion in annual revenue in recent years, had about $216 million in unrestricted cash in February, the report said. Austin Fuller,, "Red Lobster may shed some restaurants as Orlando company battles debt amid coronavirus," 28 Aug. 2020 There are no chain stores or hotels, no fast-food restaurants, no high-end lakefront condos. John Carlisle,, "On remote Beaver Island, small-town life is preserved," 21 Aug. 2020 The White House also said Trump worked to expand testing capacity by developing a public and private partnership that would bring more virus testing to parking lots of big-name chain stores. Politifact Staff, Detroit Free Press, "Fact-checking Joe Biden at the 2020 Democratic National Convention," 21 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 The early seasons of Dear White People felt especially chained to empty symbols. Jason Parham, Wired, "The Rise and Limits of Hashtag TV," 18 Apr. 2020 The bike had been locked and chained to a work bench. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Woman steals cigarettes from ashtray; deplorables steal basket of merchandise: Berea police blotter," 9 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.

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

Time Traveler for chain

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for chain

Last Updated

9 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Chain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!