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[hen] /hɛn/
the female of the domestic fowl.
the female of any bird, especially of a gallinaceous bird.
Informal. an unpleasant, usually older woman, especially one considered to be a busybody or gossip.
before 1000; Middle English; Old English hen(n) (compare Old English hana cock); cognate with German Henne; akin to Latin canere to sing
Related forms
henlike, adjective
hennish, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for hen
  • Originally, the hen presumably laid one clutch, became broody, and incubated the eggs.
  • A woman brings a hen for the ceremony, while a man brings a rooster.
British Dictionary definitions for hen


the female of any bird, esp the adult female of the domestic fowl
the female of certain other animals, such as the lobster
(informal) a woman regarded as gossipy or foolish
(Scot, dialect) a term of address (often affectionate), used to women and girls
scarce as hen's teeth, extremely rare
Word Origin
Old English henn; related to Old High German henna, Old Frisian henne
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hen
O.E. hen, from W.Gmc. *khannjo (cf. M.Du. henne, O.H.G. henna), fem. of *khan(e)ni "male fowl, cock" (cf. O.E. hana "cock"), lit. "bird who sings for sunrise," from PIE base *kan- "to sing" (see chant). The original masc. word survives in Ger. (Hahn "cock"), Swed., Dan., etc.; extension to "female of any bird species" is early 14c. in English. Hen as slang for "woman" dates from 1620s; hence hen party "gathering of women," first recorded 1887. Henpecked is from 1680.
"The henpect Man rides behind his Wife, and lets her wear the Spurs and govern the Reins." [Samuel Butler]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for hen



By, of, and for women: hen party/ hen talk

  1. A woman, esp a fussy or gossipy woman •This and other senses regarded as offensive by some women: That old hen made him sick
  2. young woman; chick (1626+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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hen in the Bible

common in later times among the Jews in Palestine (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34). It is noticeable that this familiar bird is only mentioned in these passages in connection with our Lord's lamentation over the impenitence of Jerusalem.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with hen
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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