chicken

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English[edit]

A chicken
A rooster (centre) surrounded by hens in Stainland, a village in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, England, UK
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Pronunciation[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English chicken, from Old English ċicen, cycen (chicken), diminutive of coc, cocc (cock, rooster), or from Proto-Germanic *kiukīną (chicken). Cognate with North Frisian schückling (chicken), Saterland Frisian Sjuuken (chicken), Dutch kuiken (chick, chicken), Low German küken (chicken), German Küken (chick), dialectal German Küchlein (chicken) and Old Norse kjúklingr (chicken). More at cock, -en.

Noun[edit]

chicken (countable and uncountable, plural chickens)

  1. (countable) A domestic fowl, Gallus gallus, especially when young.
  2. (uncountable) The meat from this bird eaten as food.
  3. (countable, slang) A coward.
  4. (countable, slang) A young or inexperienced person.
    • 1752, Jonathan Swift, “Stella's Birth-day, 1720”, in The Works of D. Jonathan Swift. In Nine Volumes. The Seventh Edition, to which is Prefixed, the Doctor's Life, with Remarks on His Writings, from the Earl of Orrery and Others, not to be Found in any Former Edition of His Works, volume II (Containing His Poetical Writings), 7th edition, Dublin; Edinburgh: [P]rinted; and [...] reprinted, for G. Hamilton & J. Balfour, & L. Hunter at Edinburgh; and A. Stalker, at Glasgow; and sold by them and other booksellers, OCLC 642497542, page 99:
      Purſue your trade of ſcandal-picking, / Your hints, that Stella is no chicken: / Your innuendos, when you tell us, / That Stella loves to talk with fellows; []
    • 1886, A[rthur] Conan Doyle, “The Lauriston Garden Mystery”, in A Study in Scarlet (Beeton's Christmas Annual; 28th season), London; New York, N.Y.: Ward Lock & Co., November 1887, OCLC 15800088; republished as A Study in Scarlet. A Detective Story, new edition, London: Ward, Lock, Bowden, and Co., 1892, OCLC 23246292, page 43:
      "This case will make a stir, sir," he remarked. "It beats anything I have seen, and I am no chicken."
  5. (countable, gay slang) A young, attractive, slim man, usually having little body hair; compare chickenhawk.
  6. The game of dare.
    1. A confrontational game in which the participants move toward each other at high speed (usually in automobiles); the player who turns first to avoid colliding into the other is the chicken (that is, the loser.)
      Don't play chicken with a freight train; you're guaranteed to lose.
Synonyms[edit]
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Adjective[edit]

chicken (comparative more chicken, superlative most chicken)

  1. (informal) Cowardly.
    Why do you refuse to fight? Huh, I guess you're just too chicken.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Shortening of chicken out.

Verb[edit]

chicken (third-person singular simple present chickens, present participle chickening, simple past and past participle chickened)

  1. (intransitive) To avoid a situation one is afraid of.
    • 1964, Max Shulman, Anyone Got a Match?, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, OCLC 176716, page 31:
      For the umpteenth time, I chickened.
    • 1968, Aidan Chambers, The Chicken Run: A Play for Young People, Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers, ISBN 978-0-435-23167-5, Act II, scene v, page 81:
      ABE: What are you chucking it for, then? You're running, aren't you? Running, cos you chickened. / SLIM: All right, so I chickened.
    • 2014, Anne M. Brown, “James Day”, in Belonging: The Story of How James Became a Brown, Acacia Ridge, Qld.: Australian eBook Publisher, ISBN 978-1-925177-25-1:
      To reach the lower branches of the blackwood one had to swing Tarzan-like across a narrow gully choked with gorse and blackberries. [] [T]he challenge of the rope swing was definitely more in James' line. [] Even if he slipped and failed, or worse, chickened, they would be unlikely to judge too harshly.

Further reading[edit]

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Scots[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From English chicken.

Noun[edit]

chicken (plural chickens)

  1. chicken