chain mail

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See also: chainmail



Etymology 1[edit]

chain + mail; attested since the 1780s.[1][2]


chain mail (usually uncountable, plural chain mails)

  1. A flexible defensive armor, made of a mesh of interlinked metal rings.
    • 1786, Francis Grose, A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons, page 11:
      Chain mail is formed by a number of iron rings, each ring having four others inserted into it, the whole exhibiting a kind of net work, with circular meshes, every ring separately rivetted; this kind of mail answers to that worn on the ancient breast plates, whence they were denominated loricæ hammatæ, from the rings being hooked together.
    • 1947, Sergei Eisenstein, translated by X. Danko, edited by G. Ivanov-Mumjiev, compiled by R. Yurenev, Notes of a Film Director, Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, page 36:
      A few broken broadswords, a helmet and a couple of chain mails preserved in museums are all the relics of those far-off times.
    • 2004, Step into the World of… The Vikings, Bath: Grandreams Books Ltd, →ISBN, page 14:
      Chain mails were also sometimes attached to the back of Viking helmets to protect the neck.
    • 2014, Saul Rip, The Rise of Shendoa (The Underworld Legacy Series), San Clemente, Calif.: Sourced Media Books, →ISBN, page 191:
      They wore chain mails over simple brown tunics, war paint still covered their faces in simple streaks, and their long dark hair hung in pony-tails that wrapped about their shoulders or hung down their backs.
Usage notes[edit]
  • When this armor was in common use, it was known simply as mail. The term chain mail dates to the 1780s, and has become a common retronym due to other meanings of mail (like "letters, post", which is not etymologically related) becoming more common, and due to the terms scale mail and plate mail coming into use to denote other forms of armor composed of similar small interlocking pieces. Since at least the 1930s,[3] some people have objected to chain mail as redundant.
Alternative forms[edit]
Coordinate terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From mail.


chain mail (countable and uncountable, plural chain mails)

  1. (sometimes collectively) A chain letter.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ chain mail”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present.
  2. ^ *
    1786, Francis Grose, “A” Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons, Illustrated by Plates Taken from the Original Armour in the Tower of London and Other Arsenals, Museums and Cabinets, page 15:
    The haubergeon was a coat composed either of plate or chain mail without sleeves : the shirt of mail was much in the form of the shirts now worn, except that it had no sleeves, it was always of chain mail.
  3. ^ Francis Kelly, Randolph Schwabe, A Short History of Costume & Armour, Chiefly in England, 1066–1800, first published 1931, reissued 1968: "In the Middle Ages and as long as armour was a living thing, the term mail denoted exclusively a defence of rings interlinked [...] "Chain-mail" is a mere modern pleonasm; "scale-mail" and still more "Plate mail," sheer nonsense."