a ball and chain

ball and chain

1. Something, usually a responsibility of some kind, that restricts one's freedom or limits one's possibilities for personal pursuits. This job is such a ball and chain, I can't wait to quit and start freelancing. As John got older, he felt that his decision to settle down and have a family became a ball and chain that prevented him from pursuing his dream to travel the world.
2. A jocular but disparaging term for a person's spouse or significant other who is thought to stifle the person in some way. Almost always applied to a wife or girlfriend. We could tell Jimmy was joking when he called his wife the old ball and chain, but I think he does feel a bit like he doesn't get out enough.
See also: and, ball, chain

ball and chain

 
1. a wife. (Mostly jocular.) I've got to get home to my ball and chain. My ball and chain is mad at me.
2. a person's special burden; a job. (Prisoners sometimes were fettered with a chain attached to a leg on one end and to a heavy metal ball on the other.) Tom wanted to quit his job. He said he was tired of that old ball and chain. Mr. Franklin always referred to his wife as his ball and chain.
See also: and, ball, chain

ball and chain

A burden and restraint, as in Karen regarded her job as a ball and chain, but she needed the money. The term, dating from the early 1800s, alludes to chaining a heavy iron ball to a prisoner's leg. Later it was transferred to other kinds of restraining burden.
See also: and, ball, chain

a ball and chain

You describe something as a ball and chain when it limits your freedom to do what you want. Our national debt is an economic ball and chain dragging us down, keeping longer term interest rates high. Note: In the past, prisoners were sometimes chained by the leg to a heavy metal ball to prevent them from escaping.
See also: and, ball, chain

a ball and chain

a severe hindrance.
Originally, a ball and chain referred to a heavy metal ball attached by a chain to the leg of a prisoner or convict to prevent their escape. The term has latterly been used with wry misogynistic humour to refer to a wife.
See also: and, ball, chain

a ˌball and ˈchain

(British English)
1 a problem that prevents you from doing what you would like to do: The business never made any money and was regarded more as a ball and chain than anything else.
2 (humorous) somebody’s husband or wife: I must get home to the ball and chain!In the past, prisoners had to wear a heavy metal ball on a chain around one leg so that they couldn’t escape.
See also: and, ball, chain

ball and chain

Marriage. A jocularly rueful term for marriage or one's wife. There was a time when men were supposed to regard marriage in general and their own married state in particular with a certain amount of resignation. The nights of going out drinking with the guys were over, to be replaced by the days of cleaning the attic, painting the garage, and fixing the toilet drip. Marriage was prison (albeit with privileges), wives were wardens, and husbands wore a metaphorical ball and chain, the sort that prisoners wore to prevent escaping. A young man asked whether he and his girlfriend had wedding plans might reply, “Naw, I'm too young to wear a ball and chain.” That reply would rarely be uttered with impunity in the presence of women.
See also: and, ball, chain