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


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

Posh wore a silk cream shirt with a chain pattern from her own line. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Victoria and David Beckham Join Kate Middleton at the National Portrait Gallery Gala," 12 Mar. 2019 The chain's collection seems vastly different than the Loloi collection, with more blush tones and fuzzy textures. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "Joanna Gaines Has a Pillow Collection in the Works, and I Want Them All," 4 Mar. 2019 Most of the chain's locations remain open on all holidays. Amina Lake Abdelrahman, Good Housekeeping, "These Stores Will Be Open on Christmas Day This Year," 18 Dec. 2018 And most recently, the Duchess of Sussex was reported to have celebrated her low-key bachelorette party at Soho Farmhouse, the chain's sprawling property in the Cotswolds. Andrea Park, Glamour, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Reportedly Took a Secret Trip to Amsterdam Over the Weekend," 25 Sep. 2018 Decades ago, Milan's coffee bars inspired the chain's vision. Fox News, "Starbucks debuts in Italy with premium brews, novelty bar," 6 Sep. 2018 On Thursday, Blockbuster Alaska announced that the rental chain's last two Alaskan stores will shut down on Monday, with liquidation sales to follow. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Alaska’s last two Blockbusters are shutting down, leaving one in US," 13 July 2018 McDonald's Most McDonald's will definitely have their doors open on April 21 with normal hours, although give your local chain a call to verify. Taysha Murtaugh And Nicol Natale, Woman's Day, "15 Restaurants Open for Easter Brunch Near Me," 11 Feb. 2019 Then, in the dining and living rooms, an artist hand-painted a tiny little chain-link design in a soft celadon green or outlined the rafters in lavender. Kathleen Renda, House Beautiful, "This House Will Give You Wes Anderson Vibes," 5 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But nothing like this where a child was left chained up for an extended period of time. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "An Alabama Teen Was Reportedly Found Naked and Chained in Basement," 22 Sep. 2018 Within minutes, Cleveland Police discovered Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who had been chained, tortured and abused along with Berry for a decade. Elaine Aradillas,, "Cleveland Kidnapping Survivors: Where Are They 5 Years Later?," 6 May 2018 At their new mark's home, Sean discovers a woman, Katie (Kerry Condon), bridled and chained to a chair (perfectly in line with the house’s ostentatious horse decor). Katie Walsh,, "Tech-smart thriller 'Bad Samaritan' mines modern-day paranoia for chills," 2 May 2018 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

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

18 Mar 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 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

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

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the range of authority or knowledge

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