chick·​en | \ ˈchi-kᵊn How to pronounce chicken (audio) , sometimes -kᵊŋ \
plural chickens

Definition of chicken

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : the common domestic fowl (Gallus gallus) especially when young also : its flesh used as food — compare jungle fowl
b : any of various birds or their young
2 : a young woman
3a : coward
b : any of various contests in which the participants risk personal safety in order to see which one will give up first
4 [short for chickenshit] slang : petty details
5 slang : a young gay boy or man



Definition of chicken (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : scared
2 slang
a : insistent on petty details of duty or discipline


chickened; chickening\ ˈchi-​kᵊn-​iŋ How to pronounce chicken (audio) , ˈchik-​niŋ \

Definition of chicken (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to lose one's nerve usually used with out seemed to exhibit courage, manliness, and conviction when others chickened out— J. R. Seeley

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Examples of chicken in a Sentence

Noun We had chicken for dinner. It's just a spider, you chicken! Don't be such a big chicken. Adjective too chicken to go through with the stunt just concentrate on the important duties of the job and forget about the chicken stuff
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Honesty in business can seem like a chicken-and-egg dilemma: Which is more important: environment or personal action? Liz Kislik, Forbes, 13 Sep. 2021 Her chicken’s rib cage rises and falls at a rapid rate. Olga Tokarczuk, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021 Entree selections include Chilean sea bass with chorizo and roasted parsnip puree; Mary’s half chicken with acorn squash puree and fingerling potatoes; and pork osso bucco with potato risotto and roasted turnip. Georgann Yara, The Arizona Republic, 13 Sep. 2021 Dredge chicken in the sesame mixture to fully coat and set aside. Christian Reynoso, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Sep. 2021 The ticket price of $45 per person (member and non-member) includes chicken, potato, corn on the cob, clam chowder and one signature drink. Sam Boyer, cleveland, 10 Sep. 2021 Dishes will include Wagyu steak with lapsang souchong (black tea) and Apicius (Roman-style) roasted chicken with garam (Indian spices). San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Sep. 2021 Savory with garlic, ginger and soy sauce, the marinade works just as well on chicken, pork, tempeh and mushrooms. Washington Post, 9 Sep. 2021 Private investors are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into building chargers, but the business suffers from a chicken-and-egg problem: Sales of electric cars are not growing fast enough to make charging profitable. New York Times, 7 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective And then the Congress and the Postal Administration were just too chicken to do it. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 17 Aug. 2020 Maria cut chicken thighs shoulder to shoulder with co-workers who coughed and ran fevers. USA Today, 22 May 2020 Popcorn and chicken wing stands were open, though fewer than on a normal day., 10 May 2020 And thus, our long, arduous, chicken parm journey began. Molly Baz, Bon Appétit, 1 May 2020 End Zone’s top-sellers include chicken wing, pizza and draft beer, Lowe says. Matt Wake |, al, 31 Jan. 2020 The enormous online marketplace sells salsas, Bloody Mary mixes, chicken wing sauces, barbecue sauces, and of course, hot sauces. Hilary Cadigan, Bon Appétit, 2 Mar. 2020 Previously that University building was home to German restaurant Schnitzel Ranch and chicken-wing eateries Beauregard's and Bob Baumhower's. Matt Wake |, al, 31 Jan. 2020 This is the recipe worth stocking up for when chicken thighs go on sale. Becky Krystal, Washington Post, 30 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Losekamp speaks many languages, from Arabic and Latin to chicken, cow and sheep. Sarah Michels, The Enquirer, 14 Aug. 2021 Savas rhapsodizes about shopping at a konbini early on, trying a dish called chiki, which is boneless chicken from a hot box. Jeanette Marantos, Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug. 2021 Your Hometown sold cheese steaks and chicken Parmesan in a concrete building with red awnings about 20 miles south of Philadelphia. New York Times, 2 June 2021 The restaurant served scallion pancakes, sweet and sour pork ribs and kung pao chicken out of a restored 1920s era home. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, 24 Aug. 2021 Add chicken back to skillet and continue to cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Darlene Zimmerman, Detroit Free Press, 15 Aug. 2021 Savas rhapsodizes about shopping at a konbini early on, trying a dish called chiki, which is boneless chicken from a hot box. Jeanette Marantos, Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug. 2021 Cargill is one of the nation’s largest producers of beef, turkey and soon-to-be chicken. al, 9 Aug. 2021 An adaptable staple of Korean cuisine, bulgogi is most often made from thin slices of marinated and grilled beef (though sometimes pork and less commonly chicken). New York Times, 23 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chicken.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of chicken


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1883, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1943, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for chicken


Middle English chiken, from Old English cicen young chicken; akin to Old English cocc cock

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Time Traveler for chicken

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The first known use of chicken was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

17 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Chicken.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for chicken



English Language Learners Definition of chicken

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a bird that is raised by people for its eggs and meat
: the meat of the chicken used as food
: a person who is afraid : coward



English Language Learners Definition of chicken (Entry 2 of 2)

: too afraid to do something


chick·​en | \ ˈchi-kən How to pronounce chicken (audio) \

Kids Definition of chicken

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a bird that is commonly raised by people for its eggs and meat : a hen or rooster
2 : the meat of a chicken used as food
3 : coward



Kids Definition of chicken (Entry 2 of 2)

: cowardly sense 1 He's too chicken to go on the rollercoaster.

More from Merriam-Webster on chicken

Nglish: Translation of chicken for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of chicken for Arabic Speakers


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