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

But San Antonio still felt it was still stuck in a barbecue time warp dominated by barbecue chains that hadn’t changed their menus in decades, and still haven’t. San Antonio Express-News, "52 Weeks of BBQ: Naming the best of the best San Antonio barbecue," 30 Aug. 2019 At practice, he was seen wearing a custom shirt with a gold chain superimposed upon it. Andrew Turner, Daily Pilot, "High School Football Preview: Jimmy Nolan looks to bring back belief at Costa Mesa," 29 Aug. 2019 Columbia’s preparations for dealing with those tariffs had roped in parts of its manufacturing, finance and legal divisions, along with supply chain managers, company officials said. Alan Rappeport, New York Times, "How 4 Companies Struggle to Navigate Trump’s Trade Uncertainty," 29 Aug. 2019 It won’t be worn by players or officials, but expect to see it on chain crew members’ caps, and possibly on the field surface for the conference championship game. Paul Lukas,, "Uni Watch College Football Preview 2019," 29 Aug. 2019 Foods also tested a meatless burger in Burger King in April before launching nationwide with the chain this month, though in a limited release. Sarah Min, CBS News, "KFC to test Beyond Meat's plant-based chicken this week in Georgia store," 26 Aug. 2019 So instead of ending up with an email chain as long as a CVS receipt, leave it to Google to find some times perfect for everyone. Patrick Lucas Austin, Time, "These 10 Google Calendar Tips Will Make You the Master of Your Schedule," 23 Aug. 2019 Beck Ventures, which owns another large section of the Valley View site, has teamed up with the Life Time fitness chain to build a high-rise residential building and office and retail space, including a Life Time gym. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "Valley View gone: Teardown of Dallas shopping mall boosts nearby property owners," 23 Aug. 2019 Then a deal to merge with grocery chain Albertsons fell apart, prompting the announcement that Standley would step down and that the company would cut 400 corporate jobs. Kristen Bellstrom, Fortune, "A New Female Fortune 500 CEO Meets the Glass Cliff: The Broadsheet," 13 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

West Virginia Rainelle: Police say three protesters who chained themselves to equipment at the Mountain Valley Pipeline have been arrested. USA TODAY, "Disney surprise, foreign feral hogs, porous pavement: News from around our 50 states," 13 Sep. 2019 But they could be chained with a remote exploit and used by an attacker to move around a target network and gain deeper control. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "How a 10-Year-Old Desk Phone Bug Came Back From the Dead," 8 Aug. 2019 Farther up the road, a group of seven Native Hawaiian protectors chained themselves to a cattle guard as a second line of defense in case law enforcement arrested the kūpuna. Trisha Kehaulani Watson-sproat, Vox, "Why Native Hawaiians are fighting to protect Maunakea from a telescope," 24 July 2019 He is still chained in the same place under the stadium. National Geographic, "This elephant’s plight sparked outrage. Here’s an update.," 20 June 2019 His string of crimes was uncovered in 2016 after police rescued Kala Brown from a storage container where she was chained at the neck and investigators found a body buried in a shallow grave. Fox News, "Serial killer says 2 more victims buried in South Carolina," 21 Aug. 2018 According to one city official, more than 75% of dog bites in Detroit can be attributed to yard dogs or dogs kept chained outside 24 hours a day. Kat Stafford, Detroit Free Press, "Chained and neglected: Detroit's dog problem persists despite child deaths," 28 Aug. 2019 The most dire scenarios are attacks that chain together multiple exploits that trigger the remote takeover of multiple devices. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "200 million devices—some mission-critical—vulnerable to remote takeover," 29 July 2019 That a dog might need to be fitted with a muzzle or chained to the floor under your seat both seem positively reasonable in comparison. Wes Siler, Outside Online, "The Grim Effect Delta's ESA Lawsuit Will Have on Travel," 4 June 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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Learn More about chain

Dictionary Entries near chain


chai latte




chain armor

chain banking

Statistics for chain

Last Updated

2 Sep 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

What made you want to look up chain? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a temporary encampment

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