chicken

[ chik-uh n ]
/ ˈtʃɪk ən /

noun

adjective

(of food) containing, made from, or having the flavor of chicken: chicken salad; chicken soup.
Slang.
  1. cowardly.
  2. petty or trivial: a chicken regulation.
  3. obsessed with petty details, regulations, etc.: He's quitting this chicken outfit to become his own boss.

Verb Phrases

chicken out, Slang.
  1. to refrain from doing something because of fear or cowardice: I chickened out when I saw how deep the water was.
  2. to renege or withdraw: You can't chicken out of this business deal now.

Idioms

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

Origin of chicken

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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for chicken out (1 of 2)

chicken out

verb

(intr, adverb) informal to fail to do something through fear or lack of conviction

British Dictionary definitions for chicken out (2 of 2)

chicken

/ (ˈtʃɪkɪn) /

noun


adjective

slang easily scared; cowardly; timid

Word Origin for 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

Idioms and Phrases with chicken out (1 of 2)

chicken out

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]


Idioms and Phrases with chicken out (2 of 2)

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.