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[cheyn] /tʃeɪn/
a series of objects connected one after the other, usually in the form of a series of metal rings passing through one another, used either for various purposes requiring a flexible tie with high tensile strength, as for hauling, supporting, or confining, or in various ornamental and decorative forms.
Often, chains. something that binds or restrains; bond:
the chain of timidity; the chains of loyalty.
  1. shackles or fetters:
    to place a prisoner in chains.
  2. bondage; servitude:
    to live one's life in chains.
  3. Nautical. (in a sailing vessel) the area outboard at the foot of the shrouds of a mast: the customary position of the leadsman in taking soundings.
  4. tire chain.
a series of things connected or following in succession:
a chain of events.
a range of mountains.
a number of similar establishments, as banks, theaters, or hotels, under one ownership or management.
Chemistry. two or more atoms of the same element, usually carbon, attached as in a chain.
Compare ring1 (def 17).
Surveying, Civil Engineering.
  1. a distance-measuring device consisting of a chain of 100 links of equal length, having a total length either of 66 feet (20 meters) (Gunter's chain or surveyor's chain) or of 100 feet (30 meters) (engineer's chain)
  2. a unit of length equal to either of these.
  3. a graduated steel tape used for distance measurements.
    Abbreviation: ch.
Mathematics, totally ordered set.
Football. a chain 10 yards (9 meters) in length for determining whether a first down has been earned.
verb (used with object)
to fasten or secure with a chain:
to chain a dog to a post.
to confine or restrain:
His work chained him to his desk.
Surveying. to measure (a distance on the ground) with a chain or tape.
Computers. to link (related items, as records in a file or portions of a program) together, especially so that items can be run in sequence.
to make (a chain stitch or series of chain stitches), as in crocheting.
verb (used without object)
to form or make a chain.
drag the chain, Australian Slang. to lag behind or shirk one's fair share of work.
in the chains, Nautical. standing outboard on the channels or in some similar place to heave the lead to take soundings.
1250-1300; Middle English chayne < Old French chaeine < Latin catēna fetter; see catena
Related forms
chainless, adjective
chainlike, adjective
interchain, verb (used with object)
unchained, adjective
4. sequence, succession, train, set. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for chains
  • On the molecular level, gelatin powder is made up of protein chains.
  • The entire ceiling is actually suspended from the true ceiling by chains.
  • Theres a good balance of ma and pa shops and chains.
  • In the modern economy, the ability to manage complex global supply chains is critical to success.
  • Sometimes local dignitaries join the procession, adorned with chains of office, sometimes not.
  • Let's let science do its work and create real causal chains and then talk.
  • Excluded from both sets of rankings are sales reported from wholesalers, small local chains and regional bookselling chains.
  • Make gifts of money, and you will not be long without chains.
  • Each ganglion is joined by intervening nervous cords to adjacent ganglia so that two chains, the sympathetic trunks, are formed.
  • Now this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to every one who is not a prisoner and in chains.
British Dictionary definitions for chains


a flexible length of metal links, used for confining, connecting, pulling, etc, or in jewellery
(usually pl) anything that confines, fetters, or restrains the chains of poverty
(usually pl) Also called snow chains. a set of metal links that fit over the tyre of a motor vehicle to increase traction and reduce skidding on an icy surface
  1. a number of establishments such as hotels, shops, etc, having the same owner or management
  2. (as modifier) a chain store
a series of related or connected facts, events, etc
a series of deals in which each depends on a purchaser selling before being able to buy
(of reasoning) a sequence of arguments each of which takes the conclusion of the preceding as a premise See (as an example) sorites
Also called Gunter's chain. a unit of length equal to 22 yards
Also called engineer's chain. a unit of length equal to 100 feet
(chem) two or more atoms or groups bonded together so that the configuration of the resulting molecule, ion, or radical resembles a chain See also open chain, ring1 (sense 18)
(geography) a series of natural features, esp approximately parallel mountain ranges
(Austral & NZ, informal) off the chain, free from responsibility
(informal) jerk someone's chain, yank someone's chain, to tease, mislead, or harass someone
(surveying) to measure with a chain or tape
(transitive) often foll by up. to confine, tie, or make fast with or as if with a chain
to sew using chain stitch
Word Origin
C13: from Old French chaine, ultimately from Latin; see catena


Sir Ernst Boris. 1906–79, British biochemist, born in Germany: purified and adapted penicillin for clinical use; with Fleming and Florey shared the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine 1945
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
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Word Origin and History for chains
c.1300, from O.Fr. chaeine, from L. catena "chain," from PIE base *kat- "to twist, twine." The verb is attested from late 14c. Chain of stores is Amer.Eng., 1846. Chain letter first recorded 1906.
"In 1896, Miss Audrey Griffin, of Hurstville, New South Wales initiated a 'chain letter' with the object of obtaining 1,000,000 used postage stamps." ["Daily Chronicle," July 27, 1906]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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chains in Medicine

chain (chān)

  1. A group of atoms covalently bonded in a spatial configuration like links in a chain.

  2. A linear arrangement of living things such as cells or bacteria.

Chain (chān), Ernst Boris. 1906-1979.

German-born British biochemist. He shared a 1945 Nobel Prize for isolating and purifying penicillin, discovered in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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chains in Science
A group of atoms, often of the same element, bound together in a line, branched line, or ring to form a molecule. ◇ In a straight chain, each of the constituent atoms is attached to other single atoms, not to groups of atoms. ◇ In a branched chain, side groups are attached to the chain. ◇ In a closed chain, the atoms are arranged in the shape of a ring.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for chains
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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chains in the Bible

(1.) A part of the insignia of office. A chain of gold was placed about Joseph's neck (Gen. 41:42); and one was promised to Daniel (5:7). It is used as a symbol of sovereignty (Ezek. 16:11). The breast-plate of the high-priest was fastened to the ephod by golden chains (Ex. 39:17, 21). (2.) It was used as an ornament (Prov. 1:9; Cant. 1:10). The Midianites adorned the necks of their camels with chains (Judg. 8:21, 26). (3.) Chains were also used as fetters wherewith prisoners were bound (Judg. 16:21; 2 Sam. 3:34; 2 Kings 25:7; Jer. 39:7). Paul was in this manner bound to a Roman soldier (Acts 28:20; Eph. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:16). Sometimes, for the sake of greater security, the prisoner was attached by two chains to two soldiers, as in the case of Peter (Acts 12:6).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with chains
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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