- 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.
Origin of hen
Examples from the Web for hen
He even claims that hen partridges conceive just by smelling the scent of males.Why Aristotle Deserves A Posthumous Nobel
October 18, 2014
He eventually brings his wife and children over, and later he manages a hen and rabbit farm.Nothing Was Banal About Eichmann’s Evil, Says a Scathing New Biography
October 11, 2014
Astrid was one of a handful of guests at the Duchess of Cambridge's hen night party last year.Harry's ex-Girlfriend's Father Commits Suicide
May 28, 2012
She installed it in the hen house so that the chickens would eat more, be healthy, lay more eggs, and be more profitable.Women | Tools | Technology: Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves
Daily Beast Promotions
March 11, 2011
This darling chocolate-making kitchen is perfect for hen parties or corporate escapes.Gal With a Suitcase
February 26, 2011
And once or twice he has got as mad as a hen at her for smilin'.Samantha Among the Brethren, Part 1.
Josiah Allen's Wife (Marietta Holley)
An elderly lady whom you do not happen to like; sometimes called, also, a hen, or cat.The Devil's Dictionary
She followed cautiously, and under a butte far from the Hen she found Jake's camp.Johnny Bear
E. T. Seton
Once when Daisy had some little kittens she put them in a hen's nest.
It lays in the bringin' up, as the duck said when the hen tried to swim.'The Depot Master
Joseph C. Lincoln
- the female of any bird, esp the adult female of the domestic fowl
- the female of certain other animals, such as the lobster
- informal a woman regarded as gossipy or foolish
- Scot dialect a term of address (often affectionate), used to women and girls
- scarce as hen's teeth extremely rare
Word Origin and History for hen
Old English henn, from West Germanic *khannjo (cf. Old Frisian henn, Middle Dutch henne, Old High German henna), fem. of *han(e)ni "male fowl, cock" (cf. Old English hana "cock"), literally "bird who sings (for sunrise)," from PIE root *kan- "to sing" (see chant).
The original masculine word survives in German (Hahn "cock"), Swedish, Danish, 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. To be mad as a wet hen is from 1823, but the figure was used to indicate other states:
Some, on the contrary, are viciously opposite to these, who act so tamely and so coldly, that when they ought to be angry, to thunder and lighten, as one may say, they are no fuller of Heat, than a wet Hen, as the Saying is; .... ["Life of Mr. Thomas Betterton," London, 1710]
Orth. Out upon you for a dastardly Fellow; you han't the Courage of a wet Hen. ["A Sermon Preached at St. Mary-le-Bow, March 27, 1704"]
As wanton as a wet hen is in "Scots Proverbs" (1813). Among Middle English proverbial expressions was nice as a nonne hen "over-refined, fastidiously wanton" (c.1500); to singen so hen in snowe "sing miserably," literally "sing like a hen in snow" (c.1200). Hen's teeth as a figure of scarceness is attested by 1838.
Idioms and Phrases with hen
see mad as a hornet (wet hen); scarce as hen's teeth.