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

Participants include networking site Bumble (Los Angeles Clippers), Blue Diamond Almonds (Sacramento Kings) and even truck stop and convenience store chain Love’s (Oklahoma City Thunder). Rob Schaefer, Fortune, "Rakuten Has Generated 'North of $40 Million' From Sponsoring the Golden State Warriors," 7 June 2019 Meanwhile, parent company Enterprise Holdings has been lobbying state legislatures to regulate car-sharing platforms as rental agencies, similar to how hotel chains and taxi companies spearheaded regulation of Airbnbs and ride-sharing apps. Ron Hurtibise,, "'Airbnb for cars’ is here, and renting will never be the same," 7 June 2019 Local color: The high-ceilinged room, with its strong red accents and jumble of vintage-look advertising memorabilia and Americana, took me back to the ’70s and ’80s, when chain’s like TGI Friday’s and Chili’s were all the rage. Alison Cook, Houston Chronicle, "Burger Friday: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers at Marq-E Entertainment Center," 7 June 2019 The school’s parking lot, where seniors have decorated parking spaces in bright colors, sits empty behind a chain link fence. Washington Post, "Teens graduating in California town nearly destroyed by fire," 7 June 2019 Large exhibitors such as Regal and United Artists have cut their seating capacity at area theaters in favor of larger seats to compete with specialty chains like Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and mobile and home viewing. John Wenzel, The Denver Post, "Esquire Theatre sets mid-June reopening date after six-month closure," 6 June 2019 Engel said the Foreign Affairs Committee is working on legislation to address child labor and supply chain issues and will likely hold a hearing later this year focused on the matter. Peter Whoriskey, Anchorage Daily News, "Much of the chocolate you buy starts with child labor," 6 June 2019 Dunkin' This national doughnut chain is offering a free doughnut with any beverage purchase while supplies last on Friday. Lauren Saria, azcentral, "7 places for free doughnuts in Phoenix on National Doughnut Day," 6 June 2019 Even big-box gym chains like Gold’s are introducing their own tech to keep up. Madeleine Laplante-dube, Outside Online, "Peloton Filed for an IPO," 6 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

On May 1, students chained the building's doors shut, forcing its closure. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "7 Arrested by Baltimore Police, Breaking Up Monthlong Johns Hopkins Protests Against Private Police, ICE Contracts," 8 May 2019 The children reportedly were beaten and chained to furniture. Alex Thomas, ajc, "Hundreds of journals found in home where 13 siblings held captive, DA says," 22 Jan. 2018 Multiple SiteLights can be chained together to illuminate a wider area, too. Kraig Becker, Popular Mechanics, "How to Set Up Camp," 2 Apr. 2019 At the end of the village was a large compound with a sluggish white dog chained up at the door. Michael M. Phillips, WSJ, "‘I Think I’ve Been Shot’: Nighttime Raid in Afghanistan Reveals New U.S. Strategy," 5 Dec. 2018 Protesters chained themselves to the exterior door of the Israeli Consulate at 20 Park Plaza on Tuesday hoping to convince Israeli officials to denounce the use of live ammunition against demonstrators in the Gaza Strip. John R. Ellement,, "Protesters chain themselves to door at Israeli consulate in Boston," 3 Apr. 2018 Oh, and then there's the whole fact that Nick also chained up his werewolf familiar Amalia. Jessica Macleish, Teen Vogue, "The Best Musical Moments from "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" Part 2," 9 Apr. 2019 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

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

10 Jun 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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!