Definition of chain in English:



  • 1A connected flexible series of metal links used for fastening or securing objects and pulling or supporting loads.

    ‘he slid the bolts on the front door and put the safety chain across’
    ‘the drug dealer is being kept in chains’
    • ‘The coils are contained within a steel cylinder fitted with fins, which would float just below the surface of the water, anchored to the sea-bed by chains, and rotated by the force of the tides.’
    • ‘They yanked on her chains forcing her to bend and twist at their will like a puppet on strings.’
    • ‘He was taken away in chains while the villagers looked on and cheered.’
    • ‘He lunged forward, but the heavy chains around his ankles brought him crashing back down to the ground.’
    • ‘More often than not, temple elephants kept in chains and overfed without enough exercise become fat.’
    • ‘I followed him into the room and he yanked a chain hanging from the ceiling.’
    • ‘Then began the search for a chain or strong rope.’
    • ‘Four feet of open air separated them, and four feet of heavy chain bound them together.’
    • ‘Olivier was shackled with 25 pounds of chains and forced to sleep on a hard concrete prison floor for over eight years.’
    • ‘Elephants are tethered by chains so people can climb on them for a cute photo for a fee of 10 yuan.’
    • ‘The second time he did the trick with me, he pulled the chain… and the links kinked up and caught together, preventing the loop from falling apart.’
    • ‘There were heavy, rusty chains around her wrists and ankles that hurt when they tightened.’
    • ‘Prisoners in chains appear in the Mutombo, Kalema, and Nguba paintings.’
    • ‘The guards jerked at the chains forcing the slaves to stumble forward as they were led towards the huge mansion.’
    • ‘Future projects for the most famous illusionist since David Copperfield include being thrown off Tower Bridge while tied in chains and weighted down with lead.’
    • ‘Four men in a stolen red Vauxhall Cavalier attacked the stand-alone cash machine by placing a metal chain around it and pulling it out onto the pavement.’
    • ‘He had a collar around his neck with a chain dangling from it.’
    • ‘In that performance, the magician was tied with metal chains and secured by 50 locks.’
    • ‘The Rainbow Warrior had been blockading the military port until police boarded the ship on Saturday night and cut her anchor chain forcing the ship into dock.’
    • ‘They hung off the ground and were suspended by massive chains attached to the ceiling.’
    fetters, shackles, bonds, irons, leg irons, manacles, handcuffs
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    1. 1.1A series of decorative metal links worn as a decoration; a necklace.
      • ‘I reached inside my blouse and pulled out a silver chain with a silver ring on it.’
      • ‘As in many countries, wealthier men sometimes wear large gold chains around their necks.’
      • ‘She was no longer biting her fingernail, but fidgeting with the gold cross on a chain around her neck.’
      • ‘The lady also shows the girdle of a Franciscan tertiary visible at her knee, an affiliation confirmed by the brown scapular pendant on a gold chain around her neck.’
      • ‘She took the pendant and clasped the chain around her neck.’
      • ‘He was wearing a grey vest with six silver chains round his neck.’
      • ‘The earrings, chains, chokers and necklaces stood out for their designs - elegant but subdued, stylish yet not loud.’
      • ‘She leaned away from him and lifted the gold chain from around her neck.’
      • ‘When Maradona appears on Dancing With The Stars via satellite on Friday he is wearing two stud earrings, a heavy crucifix on a chain around his neck, jeans and a red T-shirt tight enough to keep no secrets.’
      • ‘This example would have been worn on a chain round the neck, proudly displayed like an order or badge of loyalty.’
      • ‘And she will be wearing Steve's wedding ring on a chain around her neck.’
      • ‘He wears the outfit of the young man about town, jeans, a colourful t-shirt, shiningly bright white trainers, a thick silver chain round his neck and one on his wrist, but there is a depth, too.’
      • ‘Dressed up in a track suit with a baseball cap, rings on his finger and a silver chain round his neck, the 25 years old explains to the Vacuum how to get most of the brew.’
      • ‘Sometimes they enjoyed big success, as with the debt restructuring at Signet, the jewellery chain, and Wembley.’
      • ‘He wears a gold chain around a neck that is thick as a thigh.’
      • ‘Sapphires and jet decorated a chain around his neck, the gems glittering as coldly as his eyes.’
      • ‘At the foot of Mark's pulpit, positioned in the foreground, is an unmistakable self-portrait of Gentile; round his neck hangs the chain presented to him by Mehmed.’
      • ‘Snapping the bracelets on and the chain around my neck, I came to sliding the leather belt around my slender waist only to put the two chains on it.’
      • ‘Both she and her mother wear jewelry, earrings; the girl also wears a chain with some gold trinkets, the mother, beads.’
      • ‘He approached a car queueing at the drive-through, reached through the window and grabbed a gold chain from round the driver's neck.’
      locket, medallion, drop, stone
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    2. 1.2
      short for snow chains
    3. 1.3A force or factor that binds or restricts someone.
      ‘the chains of illness’
      • ‘In a slave society, where body and mind are in chains, music portrays the fairer sex as a creature to be enslaved.’
      • ‘Are we meant to consider that the arrival of the electronic book signals a new freedom for the reader, casing off the restrictive chains of the traditional book?’
      • ‘Do the work, stay in the shadows, accept what you are given and never think of organizing to challenge the structure that holds you in chains.’
      • ‘A small group started a movement that got the support of a nation to bring down an ideology that kept the country in chains.’
      • ‘As Jean Jacques Rousseau said - man is born free, but everywhere in chains.’
  • 2A sequence of items of the same type forming a line.

    ‘he kept the chain of buckets supplied with water’
    • ‘The slumps form a chain of isolated hills easily recognizable in the elevation model.’
    • ‘Roughly around midnight the disco music stopped and a chain of exotic dancers paraded onto the floor.’
    • ‘Standing upon the Tor, one's eye is drawn to the chain of hills running across the south, forming one lip of the bowl surrounding the Levels.’
    • ‘On November 3 an underwater path to safety was marked with stakes and lined with a chain of small boats crewed by firefighters.’
    • ‘In some lost hours we made a chain of chairs, balancing on two legs, and made them topple one after each other like domino tiles.’
    • ‘At the large camp with the horses, look for a wooden box next to the tents in the middle of the chain of tents.’
    • ‘The day had been bright until then, but we'd noticed a bank of fog building up steadily on the outside of the island chain, flopping its forelock languidly over the mountain ridges, waiting for a breeze to give it a leg up.’
    • ‘Through the Desert is a pretty clever game, but as a themed game it stinks - camels simply don't line up in endless chains across the burning wastelands.’
    • ‘One hundred million years ago Tobago was in the Pacific, part of a chain of volcanic islands.’
    • ‘The Balaton Highland is a chain of rolling hills north of Lake Balaton and south of the Veszprem Plateau, rising some 200 m above the lake level.’
    • ‘Organizers set up a chain of tents and makeshift toilets to accommodate the protestors.’
    • ‘In the northwest Pacific you can see a whole series of seamount chains that were formed by hotspots.’
    series, succession, string, sequence, train, trail, run, pattern, progression, course, set, line, row, concatenation
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    1. 2.1A sequence or series of connected elements.
      ‘a chain of events’
      ‘the food chain’
      • ‘Negligent intervening acts may or may not break the chain of causation.’
      • ‘It identified the length of the reporting chains as a factor in why so much intelligence was unreliable.’
      • ‘The logical chain leading from recovery from illness to an understanding of the animals' language is similarly opaque.’
      • ‘The food supply chain is comprised of inputs and outputs, explains Wilson.’
      • ‘The full direction is therefore necessary where ‘… lies constitute an important element in the chain of proof.’’
      • ‘The arrival of Ali, her cousin from Iran, sets forth a chain of events, forcing a re-examination of her background and the world around her.’
      • ‘But how could this boy start in motion a chain of events that would elicit such turmoil?’
      • ‘And the Rayong plant may have the distinction of operating the world's longest supply chain.’
      • ‘The uncertainty surrounding him would cause a chain of events and interviews, due diligence any team looking to acquire Williams in a trade would insist upon.’
      • ‘It wouldn't happen, even though (ex hypothesi) the government decision is part of the causal chain leading to the violence in question.’
      • ‘None of the carcasses entered the human food supply chain or were rendered.’
      • ‘The discovery of an aircraft he claims crashed into the sea after being badly damaged sets in train a shocking chain of events that forces him to confront his own demons from the war.’
      • ‘Crime, like everything else, has causes, some of which are injustices, and the presence of a wrong in the causal chain leading to a crime does not normally constrain state action.’
      • ‘Neville's actions set in motion a chain of events that have become depressingly familiar these days.’
      • ‘It's a chain of successful events strung together to accomplish one goal.’
      • ‘The Defendant's intention to terminate in any event breaks the chain of causation.’
      • ‘Nor will there be learning/teaching as occurs in chains of command or chains of functional support.’
      • ‘And leaving the Waratahs set in motion the chain of events that took him to Ireland.’
      • ‘All three of these systems create a movement, and if any portion of the kinetic chain does not work efficiently the movement is compromised, forcing other systems in the body to jump in and help out.’
      • ‘Further down the value chain, copper, lead and aluminium were all on the climb.’
    2. 2.2A group of establishments, such as hotels, stores, or restaurants, owned by the same company.
      ‘the nation's largest hotel chain’
      [as modifier] ‘a chain restaurant’
      • ‘Orders from restaurant chains and resort hotels were good.’
      • ‘So it's easier to build a lasting business if you make soap or run a retail chain.’
      • ‘Making an exception for the Salvation Army might force the chain to welcome other charities that don't sit well with customers.’
      • ‘His company has the size to survive such a hit, he says, but many travel companies and hotel chains have been cutting staff, reducing shifts and eliminating holiday pay and benefits.’
      • ‘What's the largest fast junk food chain in the country?’
      • ‘GUS owns retail chain Argos as well as a number of catalogue brands.’
      • ‘Yet the big chains stayed open, forcing smaller competitors to do the same to cater for the small but consistent demand for foreign racing.’
      • ‘Under pressure from powerfully conservative retail chains, the band was forced to accept a substitute.’
      • ‘The Corporation has a chain of 14 hotels in prime locations of Goa.’
      • ‘I own a hotel, a chain of restaurants, several factories and shares in shipping, insurance and defence.’
      • ‘Beginning Jan.1 next year, officials said, the trial will become a compulsory regulation for all fast-food chain stores.’
      • ‘What's the problem with the ABC running a retail chain?’
      • ‘The clients range from big chain stores, government right down to small businesses.’
      • ‘These wines will be offered to other distributors, as well as to key retailers and small hotel and restaurant chains across the country.’
      • ‘In Blackheath, even the few chain stores are run like small local shops.’
      • ‘Supermarket chain Tesco has joined forces with Pendleside Hospice in a bid to smash this year's fundraising targets.’
      • ‘Burton said that without a major reduction in labor costs, Giant and Safeway's share of the market will continue to slide, forcing the chains to cut jobs.’
      • ‘Mexican merchants own most national supermarket chains, but American and French companies are rapidly gaining influence in this sector.’
      • ‘The department-store chain was forced by the Takeover Panel to issue a statement on Friday after a steady rise in its share price last week.’
      • ‘One major southern chain was forced last week to buy in vegetables from England after it became clear Irish suppliers were unable to meet demand.’
    3. 2.3A range of mountains.
      ‘a chain of volcanic ridges’
      • ‘Within the Tethyan belt, Turkey is well known for extensive areas of ophiolitic rocks in the mountains of the Alpine chain.’
      • ‘Sasha jumped, seeing a chain of red mountains in the distance.’
      • ‘The mountains touching the coast are steep and joined to the chain further inland.’
      • ‘On the landward side it was now white-capped mountain ranges, ranks of huge mountains that joined with the chain running down the centre of the continent.’
      • ‘A smaller chain of mountains, nowhere near as tall as Zenith ran along the outer rim of the rain forest of the northern territory, separating the land of the lizards from the rest of Darikoth to the south.’
      • ‘From Tardets you can see the Pyrenean mountains rising up into a chain that extends all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.’
      • ‘Ahead of him he saw a great shining sea and nearby was a chain of tall, snow-topped mountains.’
      • ‘It is a region of hot, dry, windswept plains broken in places by chains of low mountains.’
      • ‘The Rocky Mountains form a majestic chain stretching from Canada through central Mexico.’
      • ‘The sun turned the chain of mountains on the western horizon an amber red, but it was slowly engulfed by the creeping darkness.’
      • ‘In the far north are the alps; in Sicily, the Madonie form yet another chain of central mountains.’
      • ‘Most of it is in the Serra de Tramuntana, the chain of mountains that runs across the north of the island.’
      • ‘Far ahead to the north, across a rock-strewn gulf, was a chain of low-lying mountains locked away behind an otherworldly wall of haze.’
      • ‘It was climbing up over a tall chain of mountains.’
      • ‘A chain of mountains, the Apennines, juts down the center of the peninsula.’
      • ‘The view from the high ground includes endless chains of towering mountains, running from horizon to horizon.’
      • ‘Many ridges of the Rocky Mountain chain exceed 2000 m elevation, and some have glaciers occupying the mountain tops and high valleys.’
      • ‘The central spine of mountains, a last fling of the Andean chain, are matted in rainforest, threaded with trails, cooled by waterfalls and home to more birds per square mile than anywhere in the world.’
      • ‘South along the chain of mountains you'll find the peak of Eriagon above the lake at the western entrance of Muriah.’
      • ‘Far on the horizon, there was a chain of mountains.’
    4. 2.4A part of a molecule consisting of a number of atoms (typically carbon) bonded together in a linear sequence.
      • ‘Diene elastomers can be recognized by the presence of double bonds in the main chains of the macromolecular molecules.’
      • ‘Here, the molecule is drawn out with the longest chain of carbon atoms as the central part.’
      • ‘Fatty acids that contain double bonds between carbon atoms in their chain are termed unsaturated fatty acids.’
      • ‘Lewis structures can also be written for more complex molecules that have a chain of bonded atoms instead of a single central atom.’
      • ‘Thermoplastics consist of long carbon chains that are covalently bonded to chains of other atoms.’
    5. 2.5A figure in a quadrille or similar dance, in which dancers meet and pass each other in a continuous sequence.
      • ‘Step combinations are given for nineteen quadrille figures, such as "right and left," "hands round," "English chain," "ladies' chain," and "balance."’
      • ‘The corps performs adaptations of folk-dance like material: chains, circle dances, and crossing steps.’
      • ‘It could be prompted as a quadrille or used as the figure in a singing call or adapted to a patter routine by having the Four Ladies Chain instead of doing the Allemande Left, etc.’
  • 3A jointed measuring line consisting of linked metal rods.

    • ‘The offices of the two ministers of the law were at about equal distance, and resort was had to a surveyor's chain, to ascertain which was nearest.’
    • ‘There was also in evidence picket poles, rods, chains and all the instrumental paraphernalia of field work.’
    • ‘The chain was a surveyors chain of 22 yds, two men and an umpire measuring the hit.’
    1. 3.1A measure of length equivalent to a chain (66 ft.)
      • ‘Shallow streams and intermittent streams without well defined channel or banks are not meandered, even when more than 3 chains wide.’
      • ‘Regular lots are 30 chains wide and 66.67 chains in depth.’
      • ‘Frank Lenthal's winning hit that broke a thirty year record at Elland, West Yorkshire was 13 chains 6 yards and 2 feet.’
      • ‘The original family home built in 1123 AD is a traditional square Norman castle four chains wide with turrets two chains high at each of the four corners.’
    2. 3.2American Football A measuring chain of ten yards, used in the determination of first downs.
      • ‘So let's make a rule that the clock stops to reset the chains and the line of scrimmage after every first down in the last five minutes of each half.’
      • ‘The answer is nothing, and I think there may be more of them in the college game because of the rule that stops the clock to reset the chains after every first down.’
      • ‘Having cameras mounted on the end holders for the First Down Chain would have the perfect angle to let you see whether or not the football passed the marker.’
  • 4A structure of planks projecting horizontally from a sailing ship's sides abreast of the masts, used to widen the basis for the shrouds.

    • ‘Special platforms were built for the leadsman, but the term chains was retained.’
    • ‘She was accidentally rammed by HMS Warrior in thick weather in the winter of 1867, losing boats, chains, shrouds and back stays.’
    • ‘To stand "in the chains" means to stand upon the chain-wale between two shrouds, from where the leadsman heaves the hand-lead to measure water depth.’


  • 1 Fasten or secure with a chain.

    ‘she chained her bicycle to the railing’
    • ‘Diane King had even taken the precaution of chaining the baskets to brackets on the outside wall of her house, but the thieves still managed to take them.’
    • ‘I'm confused, what did you morons hope to achieve by chaining yourself to railings and preventing ordinary, decent, working people from going about their business?’
    • ‘She mounted a campaign of opposition, chaining herself to the gates in an attempt to highlight the gross injustice.’
    • ‘Graham chained his bike to the bike rack and they met up at the train.’
    • ‘The group, which has already staged road blockades on major routes, has not ruled out deploying tactics such as chaining themselves to railings and lying on roads.’
    • ‘Supermarket giants like Tesco began chaining trolleys after finding customers were using them to take their shopping home.’
    • ‘For Brockovich, being an environmentalist is not about chaining oneself to a tree but ‘intercepting deceit.’’
    • ‘We thought of getting another one and chaining it to a tree or to a cement-locked stake in the ground, but then we realized we were getting a bit too much of an eerie glow in our eyes.’
    • ‘On September 3, two protesters held up delegates travelling to the show for 40 minutes by chaining themselves to two trains.’
    • ‘All the bikes were chained to each other and to the wall with a padlock.’
    • ‘Home-owner Richard Gavan had thought that chaining his treasured Piaggio Liberty to the pipe under his front window was a foolproof way of keeping it safe.’
    • ‘The iron hooks that prisoners were chained to are still visible on the walls.’
    • ‘There was nothing we could have done to make this more secure, short of chaining the airplanes to the ground.’
    • ‘Always chain your bike to something other than itself.’
    • ‘Once in place, the loadmasters had to chain the heavily armored vehicles securely to the floor.’
    • ‘Peace campaigners today chained themselves to gates at Menwith Hill in an effort to shut down the North Yorkshire spy base.’
    tie, secure, fasten, tether, hitch, bind, rope, moor
    restrain, shackle, fetter, manacle, handcuff, hobble
    confine, imprison
    trammel, gyve
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    1. 1.1Confine with a chain.
      ‘he had been chained up’
      figurative ‘as an actuary you will not be chained to a desk’
      • ‘They are chained inside tents or cordoned off in small areas of fields by circus owners in the hope of drawing in profits.’
      • ‘When wolves stalk the flock, best not to chain the dogs.’
      • ‘A sibling showed authorities a pair of handcuffs he said were used to chain his brother in the basement, according to charging documents.’
      • ‘It hasn't worked for Haw so far, and I'm not sure it will, but I'm a bit worried that it might work for my pro-hunting Yorkshire friend next time she chains herself to the Commons railings.’
      • ‘It never said exactly what it was he did, but it must have been pretty bad, because he was all chained up.’
      • ‘Cartooning as a day job meant chaining yourself to your table, scratching out a living in silence, interrupted only by frequent trips to the coffee shop.’
      • ‘Movement was restricted because I was chained up, there was little chance of exercise.’
      • ‘You know, Rather prides himself on not being chained to the anchor desk.’
      • ‘Houdini could get out of a glass box full of water in a couple of minutes, even chained up and in a straitjacket.’
      • ‘Mr Lowe said although his stud dogs were chained up they had huge pens.’
      • ‘She couldn't remember how long she had been chained up, or what day it was.’
      • ‘I was chained up for most of the previous four and a half years.’
      • ‘I've never been unhappier than when I was chained to a terminal for nine hours a day.’
      • ‘The man had already made sure the pooch in the yard he was about to deliver to was chained up.’
      • ‘Two guys wake up chained by their legs in a disused washroom.’
      • ‘I'm talking about when Dumbo comes to see his mother but she's all chained up and can't get to him.’
      • ‘I refuse to be chained to a desk, and I won't be.’
      • ‘My fertile imagination cannot be chained to administerial tasks.’
      • ‘They had a huge Alsatian that they kept chained up in the side passage leading to their garden.’
      • ‘Kellerman gets chained to a desk while his past in the Arson department gets scrutinized.’


  • pull (or yank) someone's chain

    • informal Tease someone, typically by leading them to believe something untrue.

      • ‘For all I know, you're some kind of hacker, or somebody I know who is yanking my chain.’
      • ‘Centre Manager Tim Campbell said he was delighted when the congratulatory letter arrived, although at first he suspected someone was pulling his chain.’
      • ‘But if I find out you've been yanking my chain, it will get very unpleasant.’
      • ‘I've let this slander pass, because I think the audience realizes he's just yanking my chain, and because he was also kind enough to invite me to guest host the show.’
      • ‘That should have tipped me off that he was either yanking my chain or wasn't someone to be taken seriously.’
      • ‘It was after being caught speeding while trying to get my wife to her compulsory speed awareness course that it struck me: the police were yanking my chain.’
      • ‘When you can't tell if the tech is dead serious or yanking your chain, it's time to hang up.’
      • ‘But the IMF, still bailing out Indonesia, has yanked the government 's chain, delaying until May the next $400 million loan payment.’
      • ‘I only hope they weren't just pulling my chain when they took my info, that's all.’
      • ‘Or are you just yanking my chain to see how I'll react?’
      make fun of, poke fun at, chaff, make jokes about, rag, mock, laugh at, guy, satirize, be sarcastic about
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Middle English: from Old French chaine, chaeine, from Latin catena a chain.