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Ball and chain

a heavy iron ball fastened by a chain to a prisoner’s leg.
a burdensome restraint:
The steady accumulation of small debts was a ball and chain to his progress.
Facetious Slang: Often Offensive. a person’s spouse or romantic partner, especially a female.
(formerly) a heavy iron ball attached to a chain and fastened to a prisoner
a heavy restraint
(slang) a wife

a type of prisoner’s restraint, 1818; as “one’s wife,” 1920.
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.


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