Meaning of ball and chain

ball' and chain'

Pronunciation: [key]
  1. a heavy iron ball fastened by a chain to a prisoner's leg.
  2. burdensome restraint: The steady accumulation of small debts was a ball and chain to his progress.
  3. . a man's wife (often used facetiously).
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.