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

henlike, adjective
hennish, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
hen (hɛn)
1.  the female of any bird, esp the adult female of the domestic fowl
2.  the female of certain other animals, such as the lobster
3.  informal a woman regarded as gossipy or foolish
4.  dialect (Scot) a term of address (often affectionate), used to women and girls
5.  scarce as hen's teeth extremely rare
[Old English henn; related to Old High German henna, Old Frisian henne]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

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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Bible Dictionary

Hen definition

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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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see mad as a hornet (wet hen); scarce as hen's teeth.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences 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.
Images for hen
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