ball-chain

ball and chain

noun
1.
a heavy iron ball fastened by a chain to a prisoner's leg.
2.
a burdensome restraint: The steady accumulation of small debts was a ball and chain to his progress.
3.
Facetious Slang: Often Offensive. a person's spouse or romantic partner, especially a female.

Origin:
1825–35, Americanism


In the meaning “romantic partner,” this term is consciously used for humorous or playful effect. But it is often perceived as insulting, implying that the partner is a burden or restriction on the other partner.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
ball and chain
 
n
1.  (formerly) a heavy iron ball attached to a chain and fastened to a prisoner
2.  a heavy restraint
3.  slang a wife

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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