Check out new words added to

chain reaction

Physics. a self-sustaining reaction in which the fission of nuclei of one generation of nuclei produces particles that cause the fission of at least an equal number of nuclei of the succeeding generation.
Chemistry. a reaction that results in a product necessary for the continuance of the reaction.
a series of events in which each event is the result of the one preceding and the cause of the one following.
Origin of chain reaction
1925-30 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for chain reaction
  • Each pairing set off a chain reaction, the strings of connection growing ever more tangled and frayed.
  • Each phrase must trigger the next in a kind of chain reaction.
  • His yawning caused a chain reaction of yawns from every member of the pride.
  • Water can also act as a nuclear moderator: a substance that aids a chain reaction.
  • There, supercooled water droplets migrate to the ice crystals, feeding a chain reaction of ice formation.
  • When something distracts one of them, it is a chain reaction.
  • The researchers speculate that writing about one's values can kick off a chain reaction.
  • Even a small political shock could push over a domino causing a chain reaction that leads to one outcome or the other.
  • Think about the sun and other stars on the one hand, or the uncontrolled chain reaction of a hydrogen bomb on the other.
  • Or an advanced physics experiment goes haywire, negating space-time in a runaway chain reaction.
British Dictionary definitions for chain reaction

chain reaction

a process in which a neutron colliding with an atomic nucleus causes fission and the ejection of one or more other neutrons, which induce other nuclei to split
a chemical reaction in which the product of one step is a reactant in the following step
a series of rapidly occurring events, each of which precipitates the next
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
chain reaction in Medicine

chain reaction n.

  1. A series of events in which each induces or influences the next.

  2. A series of chemical reactions in which one product of a reacting set is a reactant in the following set.

  3. A multistage nuclear reaction, especially a self-sustaining series of fissions in which the release of neutrons from the splitting of one atom leads to the splitting of others.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source
chain reaction in Science
chain reaction  
A process in which the result of one event triggers another event, usually of the same kind, which in turn triggers yet another event, so that the overall reaction tends to be self-sustaining. Nuclear fission reactions are chain reactions, in which the splitting of an atomic nucleus releases neutrons that penetrate other nuclei, causing them to split. The spread of heat through a substance is also a chain reaction, as fast-moving molecules in a hot part of the substance collide with neighboring molecules, passing on their kinetic energy to them, thereby making more of the substance warmer. See more at fission. See Note at nuclear reactor. See also kinetic theory.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
chain reaction in Culture

chain reaction definition

In chemistry and physics, a self-sustaining series of reactions. In a chain reaction in a uranium-based nuclear reactor, for example, a single neutron causes the nucleus of a uranium atom to undergo fission. In the process, two or three more neutrons are released. These neutrons start more fissions, which produce more neutrons, and so on.

Note: Figuratively speaking, any group of events linked so that one is the cause of the next can be called a “chain reaction.”
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
Idioms and Phrases with chain reaction

chain reaction

A series of events in which each influences or gives rise to the next event, as in If one person collects substantial damages by suing a company, you can expect a chain reaction of such lawsuits. The term originated in the physical sciences, first (1920s) chemistry and later (1940) physics; in the latter it denotes a process of nuclear fission. By the 1940s it had been transferred to more general use.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for chain reaction

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for chain

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for chain reaction