• synonyms


[kat-n-er-ee; especially British kuh-tee-nuh-ree]
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noun, plural cat·e·nar·ies.
  1. Mathematics. the curve assumed approximately by a heavy uniform cord or chain hanging freely from two points not in the same vertical line. Equation: y = kcosh(x/k).
  2. (in electric railroads) the cable, running above the track, from which the trolley wire is suspended.
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  1. of, relating to, or resembling a catenary.
  2. of or relating to a chain or linked series.
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Origin of catenary

1780–90; < Latin catēnārius relating to a chain, equivalent to catēn(a) a chain + -ārius -ary
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for catenary

Historical Examples

  • The versed sine, or deflection of the middle of the catenary, was 50 feet.

    The life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Civil Engineer

    Isambard Brunel

  • The surface formed by revolving the catenary about its directrix is named the alysseide.

  • The only surface of revolution having this property is the catenoid formed by the revolution of a catenary about its directrix.

  • One of the most laborious and practically useful works of Giddy was a treatise on the properties of the Catenary Curve.

    Cornish Characters

    S. Baring-Gould

  • Not at all: the catenary appears actually every time that weight and flexibility act in concert.

British Dictionary definitions for catenary


noun plural -ries
  1. the curve assumed by a heavy uniform flexible cord hanging freely from two points. When symmetrical about the y- axis and intersecting it at y = a, the equation is y = a cosh x / a
  2. the hanging cable between pylons along a railway track, from which the trolley wire is suspended
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adjective Also: catenarian (ˌkætɪˈnɛərɪən)
  1. of, resembling, relating to, or constructed using a catenary or suspended chain
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Word Origin

C18: from Latin catēnārius relating to a chain
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

Word Origin and History for catenary


1872, from Latin catenarius "relating to a chain," from catenanus "chained, fettered," from catena "chain, fetter, shackle" (see chain (n.)). As a noun from 1788 in mathematics. Related: Catenarian.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper