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English Wikipedia has articles on:


  • (UK) IPA(key): /kəˈtiːnəɹi/, /kəˈtɛnəɹi/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈkætəˌnɛɹi/
  • (file)

Etymology 1[edit]

From Latin catenarius, from Latin catēna (chain).


catenary (comparative more catenary, superlative most catenary)

  1. Relating to a chain; like a chain.
    • 1997, S.A.M. Adshead, Material Culture in Europe and China, 1400–1800: The Rise of Consumerism, →ISBN:
      In Europe, the organizer was the hostess and her principle was catenary.
    • 1983, Keith Godfrey, Compartmental Models and Their Application, page 242:
      The structure of the model chosen was catenary, and only one nonlinearity was introduced, in that part of the model representing bone growth.
  2. Relating to a catena.
    • 1960, Kenya. Dept. of Agriculture, Soil Survey of the Songhor Area, Kenya, page 93:
      The sequence of soils of a more or less catenary nature as seen on the Martin Estate is about as follows :

Etymology 2[edit]

From Late Latin catenaria, in turn from Latin catēna (chain). Attested since 1788.


catenary (plural catenaries)

  1. (geometry) The curve described by a flexible chain or a rope if it is supported at each end and is acted upon by no other forces than a uniform gravitational force due to its own weight and variations involving additional and non-uniform forces.
  2. (engineering) Any physical cable, rope, chain, or other weight-supporting structure taking such geometric shape, as a suspension cable for a bridge or a power-transmission line or an arch for a bridge or roof.
  3. (nautical) The curve of an anchor cable from the seabed to the vessel; it should be horizontal at the anchor so as to bury the flukes.
  4. (transport) A cable, the segments of which between supports take a catenary geometric shape, supporting in turn an overhead conductor that provides trains, trams or trolley buses with electricity, or the combination of the conductor, the cable, and supports.
    • 1958, The Railway Review: An Intelligent Survey of Transit News and Trends:
      The result was catenary being torn down several hundred feet at a time.
    • 1962 April, P. W. B. Semmens, “The Netherlands Railways today”, in Modern Railways, page 241:
      The colour-lights showed up much better than the semaphores which, in spite of their approach warning boards, are not readily visible at any distance between the supports for the catenaries.
    • 1977, Paul Castelhun Trimble, Interurban Railways of the Bay Area, page 119:
      The electric overhead was catenary, using 0000 contact wire, and the new railway employed the latest in electric block signal systems.
    • 1995, The Channel Tunnel: Transport systems, →ISBN, page 22:
      In addition the catenary itself is divided into 1-2 km sections (corresponding to mechanical sections or tension lengths) with motorized remotely controlled sectioning off-load isolators such that only one train is likely to be immobilized at any one time as a result of an incident associated with the catenary system.
    • 2009, Jan Young, Studebaker and the Railroads, volume 2, page 47:
      Overhead construction was catenary rather than a single wire to allow the use of pantographs instead of trolley poles so that speeds could be higher.
Further reading[edit]