Meaning of CHAIN in English

I. chain 1 S3 W2 /tʃeɪn/ BrE AmE noun

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: chaeine , from Latin catena ]

1 . JOINED RINGS [uncountable and countable] a series of metal rings which are joined together in a line and used for fastening things, supporting weights, decoration etc ⇨ link :

She had a gold chain around her neck.

a length of heavy chain

the Mayor’s chain of office (=a decoration worn by some British officials at ceremonies)

pull the chain British English (=flush the toilet)

a bicycle chain (=that makes the wheels turn) ⇨ ↑ jewellery

2 . CONNECTED EVENTS [countable] a connected series of events or actions, especially which lead to a final result:

the chain of events that led to World War I

The salesmen are just one link in the chain (=part of a process) of distribution.

a rather complicated chain of reasoning

⇨ ↑ chain of command , ↑ food chain

3 . SHOPS/HOTELS [countable] a number of shops, hotels, cinemas etc owned or managed by the same company or person

chain of

a chain of restaurants

hotel/restaurant/retail etc chain

several major UK supermarket chains

⇨ ↑ chain store

4 . CONNECTED LINE [countable] people or things which are connected or next to each other forming a line

mountain/island chain

the Andean mountain chain

chain of atoms/molecules etc technical :

a chain of amino acids

They formed a human chain (=a line of people who pass things from one person to the next) to move the equipment.

daisy chains (=flowers tied together)

5 . PRISONERS [countable usually plural] metal chains fastened to the legs and arms of a prisoner, to prevent them from escaping

in chains

He was led away in chains.

ball and chain (=a chain attached to someone’s ankle at one end with a heavy metal ball at the other)

6 . BUYING A HOUSE [countable usually singular] British English a number of people buying houses, where each person must complete the sale of their own house before they can buy the next person’s house

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COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 3)

■ types of chain

▪ a big/major/large chain

It is one of Europe’s biggest clothing chains.

▪ a hotel chain

Hilton is an international hotel chain.

▪ a supermarket chain

Many people buy all their food at one of the major supermarket chains.

▪ a retail chain (=one whose business is buying and selling goods)

Large retail chains usually want to expand and build more stores.

▪ a department store/video store/food store etc chain

Morgan was the owner of a computer store chain.

▪ a restaurant chain

the Pizza Hut restaurant chain

▪ a grocery chain

These are two of Florida’s largest grocery chains.

▪ a fast-food chain

the fast-food chain, Burger King

▪ a national/nationwide chain

He was head of a national chain of grocery stores.

■ phrases

▪ be part of a chain

The hotel is part of the MacDonald chain.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 4)

■ types of chain

▪ a mountain chain

The town of Besançon lies at the end of the Jura mountain chain.

▪ an island chain

the island chain from Asia to Australasia

▪ a human chain (=a large number of people who form a line, a circle etc to do something)

Riot police formed human chains to block demonstrators.

▪ a chain of atoms/molecules etc technical:

Most fabrics are made of long chains of molecules.

■ verbs

▪ form a chain

They formed a human chain passing buckets of water to the fire.

• • •


▪ mountain a very high hill:

the highest mountain in Austria

▪ hill an area of land that is higher than the land around it, which is like a mountain but smaller and usually has a rounded top:

We went for a walk in the hills.


The house is surrounded by woods, farmland and gentle hills.

▪ Mount ( also Mt written abbreviation ) used in the names of mountains. Don’t say ‘Fuji Mountain’ – say ‘Mount Fuji’ :

Mount Everest

▪ cliff the steep side of an area of land, often next to the sea:

the white cliffs of Dover

▪ precipice especially literary a very steep and dangerous cliff:

They were standing on the edge of a precipice.

▪ crag a high steep rock or mountain:

An eagle sailed over the high crags.

▪ ridge a long narrow area of high ground, especially at the top of a mountain:

I could see a group of climbers high up on a ridge.

▪ knoll a small round hill:

a grassy knoll

▪ volcano a mountain with a large hole at the top, through which ↑ lava (=hot liquid rock) is sometimes forced out:

the eruption of a volcano

▪ summit the very highest point of a mountain:

the summit of Mt Everest

▪ peak especially literary the top of a mountain:

the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas


a distant peak

▪ range/chain a group of mountains or hills arranged in a line:

the mountain range that is part of the border between Norway and Sweden

▪ foothills a group of smaller hills below a range of high mountains:

the Sierra foothills

II. chain 2 BrE AmE verb

1 . [transitive] to fasten someone or something to something else using a chain, especially in order to prevent them from escaping or being stolen

chain somebody/something to something

a bicycle chained to the fence

Four activists chained themselves to the gates.

chain somebody/something up

The elephants were chained up by their legs.

chain somebody/something together

Their hands and feet were chained together.

2 . be chained to something to have your freedom restricted because of something you must do:

She felt chained to the kitchen sink.

I don’t want a job where I’m chained to a desk all day.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.