American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A female bird, especially the adult female of the domestic fowl.
- n. The female of certain aquatic animals, such as an octopus or lobster.
- n. Slang A woman, especially a fussy or nosy old woman.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The female of the domestic fowl: opposed to cock.
- n. Any female bird; especially, used attributively, equivalent to female: as, hen canary, hen sparrow, etc.
- n. In a general sense, the common domestic or barn-yard fowl (Gallus domesticus), or any specimen of this fowl, in all its varieties and without regard to gender; a chicken. See Gallus.
- n. A bivalve mollusk of the family Veneridæ and genus Tapes. At Hereford in England the name is given to two species, T. decussata, the purr, and T. aurea. See hen-clam.
- Hence: the more original form.
- To throw.
- To back down in a cowardly way; funk out: as, he henned at the last minute.
- adv. dialectal Hence.
- v. dialectal To throw.
- n. A female bird.
- n. specifically A female chicken, especially one kept for its eggs.
- n. slang A woman.
- n. informal The woman whose impending marriage is being celebrated at a hen night.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Zoöl.) The female of the domestic fowl; also, the female of grouse, pheasants, or any kind of birds
- n. adult female chicken
- n. adult female bird
- n. female of certain aquatic animals e.g. octopus or lobster
- n. flesh of an older chicken suitable for stewing
- From Middle English, from Old English henn, hænn ("hen, female chicken"), from Proto-Germanic *hanjō (“hen”), from Proto-Indo-European *kana- (“to sing”). Cognate with Dutch hen ("hen"), German Henne ("hen"), Icelandic hæna ("hen"). Related also to Old English hana ("cock, rooster"). (Wiktionary)
- Middle English, from Old English. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“The term hen-cocks is, in consequence, often applied to them; but although the sickle feathers are thus modified, no bird possesses higher courage, or a more gallant carriage.”
“These perky women, whose tops spell out the word "hen," resemble, at times, cheerleaders; the prominent men playing the tale's animals likewise have identifying letters on their T-shirts, somewhat like sports jerseys.”
“There are still a few situations in which I would put a decoy out but a hen is all you need.”
“He seems genuinely excited about being able to tell us that pigs prefer to be clean, and that a mother hen is as protective of her young as, well, a mother hen.”
“When a hen is about to begin laying she makes a cackling noise for several days, when a nest of hay should be prepared for her, and a nest egg put into it, to induce her to lay there.”
“The eggs should be removed as soon as laid, as the hen is apt to spoil or break them, by sitting in the nest to lay others.”
“Orlean's experiences with poultry-keeping are uncannily similar to mine; her crowing "hen" is Laura, ours was Loretta.”
“We swung on over the low, rolling hills, through miles of dairy farms and chicken ranches where every blessed hen is white, and down the slopes to Petaluma Valley.”
“You know, a Republican president once said, “The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation because she never cackles until after the egg has been laid.””
“Once you find your first one, you'll see why they are called hen of the woods--they grow in feathered layers all attached at the base to the stem and they kind of look like hens sitting on a nest.”
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