- a cowardly or fearful person.
- a young or inexperienced person, especially a young girl.
- petty details or tasks.
- unnecessary discipline or regulations.
- a young male homosexual, especially one sought as a sexual partner by older men.
- petty or trivial: a chicken regulation.
- obsessed with petty details, regulations, etc.: He's quitting this chicken outfit to become his own boss.
- 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.
Origin of chicken
Related Words for chicken outavoid, cancel, recant, renege, resign, scratch, surrender, welsh, withdraw, yield
Word Origin for chicken
Old English cicen "young fowl," which in Middle English came to mean "young chicken," then any chicken, from West Germanic *kiukinam (cf. Middle Dutch kiekijen, Dutch kieken, Old Norse kjuklingr, Swedish kyckling, German Küken "chicken"), from root *keuk- (echoic of the bird's sound and possibly also the root of cock (n.1)) + diminutive suffixes.
Adjective sense of "cowardly" is at least as old as 14c. (cf. hen-herte "a chicken-hearted person," mid-15c.). As the name of a game of danger to test courage, it is first recorded 1953. Chicken feed "paltry sum of money" is by 1897, American English slang; literal use (it is made from the from lowest quality of grain) by 1834. Chicken lobster "young lobster," is from c.1960s, American English, apparently from chicken in its sense of "young."
Back out from fear, lose one's nerve, as in In the end I chickened out and took the easier route down the mountain. Chicken is a popular synonym for “cowardly,” a usage arising in the 1600s and 1700s but then apparently abandoned until the 20th century. [Slang; c. 1930]
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
- count one's chickens
- go to bed with (the chickens)
- like a chicken with its head cut off
- no spring chicken