[ chik-uhn ]
See synonyms for chicken on
  1. a domestic fowl, Gallus domesticus, descended from various jungle fowl, especially the red jungle fowl, and developed in a number of breeds for its flesh, eggs, and feathers.

  2. the young of this bird, especially when less than a year old.

  1. the flesh of the chicken, especially of the young bird, used as food.

  2. Slang.

    • a cowardly or fearful person.

    • a young or inexperienced person, especially a young girl.

    • petty details or tasks.

    • unnecessary discipline or regulations.

    • a young gay male, especially one sought as a sexual partner by older men.

  3. a contest in which two cars approach each other at high speed down the center of a road, the object being to force one's opponent to veer away first.

  4. a policy or strategy of challenging an opponent to risk a clash or yield: diplomats playing chicken at the conference table.

  1. (of food) containing, made from, or having the flavor of chicken: chicken salad; chicken soup.

  2. Slang.

    • petty or trivial: a chicken regulation.

    • obsessed with petty details, regulations, etc.: He's quitting this chicken outfit to become his own boss.

Verb Phrases
  1. chicken out, Slang.

    • to refrain from doing something because of fear or cowardice: I chickened out when I saw how deep the water was.

    • to renege or withdraw: You can't chicken out of this business deal now.

Idioms about chicken

  1. count one's chickens before they are hatched, to rely on a benefit that is still uncertain: They were already spending wildly, in anticipation of their inheritance, counting their chickens before they were hatched.

Origin of chicken

First recorded before 950; 1605–15 for def. 4a; 1940–45 for def. 6; Middle English chiken, Old English cīcen; akin to Middle Dutch kieken (Dutch kuiken ), Low German küken

Words Nearby chicken Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use chicken in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for chicken


/ (ˈtʃɪkɪn) /

  1. a domestic fowl bred for its flesh or eggs, esp a young one

  2. the flesh of such a bird used for food

  1. any of various similar birds, such as a prairie chicken

  2. slang a cowardly person

  3. slang a young inexperienced person

  4. slang an underage boy or girl regarded as a potential target for sexual abuse

  5. informal any of various, often dangerous, games or challenges in which the object is to make one's opponent lose his nerve

  6. count one's chickens before they are hatched to be overoptimistic in acting on expectations which are not yet fulfilled

  7. like a headless chicken British informal disorganized and uncontrolled

  8. no chicken or no spring chicken slang no longer young: she's no chicken

  1. slang easily scared; cowardly; timid

Origin of chicken

Old English ciecen; related to Old Norse kjūklingr gosling, Middle Low German küken chicken

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with chicken


In addition to the idioms beginning with chicken

  • chicken feed
  • chicken out
  • chickens come home to roost
  • chicken shit
  • chicken with its head cut off

also see:

  • count one's chickens
  • go to bed with (the chickens)
  • like a chicken with its head cut off
  • no spring chicken

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.