chain - definition and synonyms


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  1. 1
    [countable/uncountable] a series of metal rings connected to each other, used for fastening, pulling, or lifting things

    There was a rusty iron chain hanging from the gate.

    The crate was secured with a strong chain.

    1. a.
      [countable] a series of small metal rings connected to each other that is worn as a decoration

      She wore a delicate gold chain around her neck.

    2. b.
    3. c.
      [countable] [usually plural] a long series of heavy metal rings fastened like a rope to a prisoner’s arms and legs
      in chains:

      Women prisoners were kept in chains during childbirth.

  2. 2
    [countable] a series of things of the same type that form a connected line
    chain of:

    In 1910 there was a proposal for a chain of telegraph stations to link up the empire.

    The region includes Sumatra, Java, and a chain of smaller islands extending eastwards.

    1. a.
      a group of people that form a line
      human chain (=a line of people):

      Firefighters formed a human chain to carry the injured climbers to safety.

    2. b.
      science a part of a molecule consisting of a series of atoms connected in a line

      a polymer chain

  3. 3
    [countable] a long series of events, facts, or ideas that are all related to each other
    chain of:

    a chain of events that eventually led to murder

    The virus becomes weaker as it passes down the chain of infection.

  4. 4
    [countable] a group of businesses such as shops, hotels, or restaurants that all belong to the same person or company

    Japan’s leading hotel chain

    chain of:

    a chain of electrical goods shops

  5. 5
    [countable] British a situation in which you cannot sell your house until the person whose house you are buying has bought their new house. This situation can involve many people because the sale of each person’s house depends on the sale of the next

    We’ve been in a chain for five months.

  6. 6


    [plural] literary conditions that limit your freedom, especially unpleasant responsibilities or bad conditions that you live in