n. & v.
n. 1 a a connected flexible series of esp. metal links as decoration or for a practical purpose. b something resembling this (formed a human chain). 2 (in pl.) a fetters used to confine prisoners. b any restraining force. 3 a sequence, series, or set (chain of events; mountain chain). 4 a group of associated hotels, shops, newspapers, etc. 5 a badge of office in the form of a chain worn round the neck (mayoral chain). 6 a a jointed measuring-line consisting of linked metal rods. b its length (66 ft.). 7 Chem. a group of (esp. carbon) atoms bonded in sequence in a molecule. 8 a figure in a quadrille or similar dance. 9 (in pl.) Naut. channels (see CHANNEL(2)). 10 (also chain-shot) hist. two cannon-balls or half balls joined by a chain and used in sea battles for bringing down a mast etc.
v.tr. 1 (often foll. by up) secure or confine with a chain. 2 confine or restrict (a person) (is chained to the office). chain-armour armour made of interlaced rings. chain bridge a suspension bridge on chains. chain drive a system of transmission by endless chains. chain-gang a team of convicts chained together and forced to work in the open air. chain-gear a gear transmitting motion by means of an endless chain. chain-letter one of a sequence of letters the recipient of which is requested to send copies to a specific number of other people. chain-link made of wire in a diamond-shaped mesh (chain-link fencing). chain-mail = chain-armour. chain reaction 1 Physics a self-sustaining nuclear reaction, esp. one in which a neutron from a fission reaction initiates a series of these reactions. 2 Chem. a self-sustaining molecular reaction in which intermediate products initiate further reactions. 3 a series of events, each caused by the previous one. chain-saw a motor-driven saw with teeth on an endless chain. chain-smoker a person who smokes continually, esp. one who lights a cigarette etc. from the stub of the last one smoked. chain-stitch an ornamental embroidery or crochet stitch resembling chains. chain store one of a series of shops owned by one firm and selling the same sort of goods. chain-wale = CHANNEL(2). chain-wheel a wheel transmitting power by a chain fitted to its edges.
[ ME f. OF cha(e)ine f. L catena ]