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See also: Chain


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A metal chain
A chain of daisies
Molecular chain for acrylic


From Middle English cheyne, chaine, from Old French chaine, chaene (chain), from Latin catēna (chain), from Proto-Indo-European *kat- (to braid, twist; hut, shed). Doublet of catena.


  • IPA(key): /ˈt͡ʃeɪn/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪn


chain (plural chains)

  1. A series of interconnected rings or links usually made of metal.
    He wore a gold chain around the neck.
  2. A series of interconnected things.
    a chain of mountains
    a chain of ideas, one leading to the next
    This led to an unfortunate chain of events.
  3. A series of stores or businesses with the same brand name.
    That chain of restaurants is expanding into our town.
  4. (chemistry) A number of atoms in a series, which combine to form a molecule.
    When examined, the molecular chain included oxygen and hydrogen.
  5. (surveying) A series of interconnected links of known length, used as a measuring device.
  6. (surveying) A long measuring tape.
  7. A unit of length equal to 22 yards. The length of a Gunter's surveying chain. The length of a cricket pitch. Equal to 20.12 metres, 4 rods, or 100 links.
    • 1938, Xavier Herbert, Capricornia, New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1943, Chapter X, p. 177, [1]
      "But it's too far—must be a quarter of a mile—and I've a portmanteau to carry." []
      "Garn!" shouted the guard. "Taint ten chain. [] "
  8. (mathematics, set theory, order theory) A totally ordered set, especially a totally ordered subset of a poset.
    • 2003, Jeremy P. Spinrad, Efficient Graph Representations, American Mathematical Society, page 108,
      We first find an approximation of the chain partition, i.e. a small but not minimum size set of chains which cover all elements of the poset.
  9. (Britain) A sequence of linked house purchases, each of which is dependent on the preceding and succeeding purchase (said to be "broken" if a buyer or seller pulls out).
  10. That which confines, fetters, or secures; a bond.
    the chains of habit
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book 6”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker [] [a]nd by Robert Boulter [] [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554:
      Driven down / To chains of darkness and the undying worm.
  11. (nautical, in the plural) Iron links bolted to the side of a vessel to bold the dead-eyes connected with the shrouds; also, the channels.
  12. (weaving) The warp threads of a web.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Knight to this entry?)



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The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


chain (third-person singular simple present chains, present participle chaining, simple past and past participle chained)

  1. (transitive) To fasten something with a chain.
  2. (intransitive) To link multiple items together.
  3. (transitive) To secure someone with fetters.
  4. (transitive) To obstruct the mouth of a river etc with a chain.
  5. (figuratively) To obligate.
    • 2017 August 13, Brandon Nowalk, “Oldtown offers one last game-changing secret as Game Of Thrones goes behind enemy lines (newbies)”, in The Onion AV Club[2]:
      I miss when Game Of Thrones was wide open, but even then, the writers were chained to a narrative they didn’t yet know the ending of and feared straying too far from.
  6. (computing) To relate data items with a chain of pointers.
  7. (computing) To be chained to another data item.
  8. (transitive) To measure a distance using a 66-foot long chain, as in land surveying.
  9. (transitive, computing, rare, associated with Acorn Computers) To load and automatically run (a program).
    • 1996, "Mr D Walsh", Running two programs from a batch file (on newsgroup comp.sys.acorn.misc)
      How do you get one program to chain another? I want to run DrawWorks2 then !Draw but as soon as you run Drawworks2 it finishes the batch file and doesn't go on to the next instruction! Is there a way without loading one of these automatic loaders?
    • 1998, "Juan Flynn", BBC software transmitted on TV - how to load? (on newsgroup comp.sys.acorn.misc)
      You can do LOAD "" or CHAIN "" to load or chain the next program if I remember correctly (it's been a loooong time since I've used a tape on an Acorn!)
    • 2006, "Richard Porter", SpamStamp double headers (on newsgroup comp.sys.acorn.apps)
      Recent versions of AntiSpam no longer use the Config file but have a Settings file instead, so when I updated the Config file to chain SpamStamp it had no effect as it was a redundant file.

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Further reading[edit]






  1. Aspirate mutation of cain.


Welsh mutation
radical soft nasal aspirate
cain gain nghain chain
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.