a. A connected, flexible series of links, typically of metal, used especially for holding objects together, for restraining, or for transmitting mechanical power.
b. Such a set of links, often of precious metal and with pendants attached, worn as an ornament or symbol of office.
c. often chains Football Such a set of links measuring ten yards and attached to a pole at each end, moved up and down the field to indicate necessary yardage for gaining a first down.
2. A restraining or confining agent or force.
a. Bonds, fetters, or shackles.
b. Captivity or oppression; bondage: threw off the chains of slavery.
4. A series of closely linked or connected things: a chain of coincidences. See Synonyms at series.
5. A number of establishments, such as stores, theaters, or hotels, under common ownership or management.
6. A range of mountains.
7. Chemistry A series of chemically bonded atoms, especially carbon atoms, which may be arranged in an open, branched, or cyclic structure.
a. An instrument used in surveying, consisting of 100 linked pieces of iron or steel and measuring 66 feet (20.1 meters). Also called Gunter's chain.
b. A similar instrument used in engineering, measuring 100 feet (30.5 meters).
c. Abbr. ch A unit of measurement equal to the length of either of these instruments.
tr.v. chained, chain·ing, chainsIdiom:
1. To bind or make fast with a chain or chains: chained the dog to a tree.
2. To restrain or confine as if with chains: workers who were chained to a life of dull routine.
pull/yank (someone's) chain
To take unfair advantage of someone; deceive or manipulate someone.
[Middle English chaine, from Old French, from Latin catēna.]
(click for a larger image)chain
left to right: figaro, sash, and stud links
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
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