verb (used with object)

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.

Origin of chain

1250–1300; Middle English chayne < Old French chaeine < Latin catēna fetter; see catena
Related formschain·less, adjectivechain·like, adjectivein·ter·chain, verb (used with object)un·chained, adjective

Synonyms for chain




Sir Ernst Boris [urnst, ernst] /ɜrnst, ɛrnst/, 1906–79, English biochemist, born in Germany: Nobel Prize in Medicine 1945. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for chain

Contemporary Examples of chain

Historical Examples of chain

  • Blow it,” he said, taking off the chain, “my mouth is too full of slime.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • It is possible that this is one link in the chain of influence which she was weaving around them.

  • It must value men as men, not as functions of a chain of conventionalities.

  • He opened the door an inch and I could see a chain between the crack.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • The chain and small brooch should be used if the hat pin is of much value.

    A Woman Tenderfoot

    Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

British Dictionary definitions for chain



a flexible length of metal links, used for confining, connecting, pulling, etc, or in jewellery
(usually plural) anything that confines, fetters, or restrainsthe chains of poverty
Also called: snow chains (usually plural) 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 premiseSee (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 chainSee also open chain, ring 1 (def. 18)
geography a series of natural features, esp approximately parallel mountain ranges
off the chain Australian and NZ informal free from responsibility
jerk someone's chain or yank someone's chain informal to tease, mislead, or harass someone


surveying to measure with a chain or tape
(tr often foll by up) to confine, tie, or make fast with or as if with a chain
to sew using chain stitch

Word Origin for chain

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

Word Origin and History for chain

c.1300, from Old French chaeine "chain" (12c., Modern French chaîne), from Latin catena "chain" (source also of Spanish cadena, Italian catena), of unknown origin, perhaps from PIE root *kat- "to twist, twine" (cf. Latin cassis "hunting net, snare").

Figurative use from c.1600. As a type of ornament worn about the neck, from late 14c. Chain of stores is American English, 1846. Chain gang is from 1834; chain reaction is from 1916 in physics, specific nuclear physics sense is from 1938; chain mail first recorded 1822, in Scott, from mail (n.2). Before that, mail alone sufficed. Chain letter recorded from 1892; usually to raise money at first; decried from the start as a nuisance.

Nine out of every ten givers are reluctant and unwilling, and are coerced into giving through the awful fear of "breaking the chain," so that the spirit of charity is woefully absent. ["St. Nicholas" magazine, vol. XXVI, April 1899]

Chain smoker is attested from 1886, originally of Bismarck (who smoked cigars), thus probably a loan-translation of German Kettenraucher. Chain-smoking is from 1930.


late 14c., "to bar with a chain; to put (someone) in chains," also "to link things together," from chain (n.). Related: Chained; chaining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

chain in Medicine




A group of atoms covalently bonded in a spatial configuration like links in a chain.
A linear arrangement of living things such as cells or bacteria.


[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.

chain 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.


Sir Ernst Boris 1906-1979

German-born British bacteriologist who, with Howard Florey, developed and purified penicillin in 1939. For this work, they shared a 1945 Nobel Prize with Alexander Fleming, who first discovered the antibiotic in 1928.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with chain


In addition to the idioms beginning with chain

  • chain reaction
  • chain smoker

also see:

  • ball and chain
  • pull someone's chain
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.