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

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 male homosexual



Definition of chicken (Entry 2 of 3)

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


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

Definition of chicken (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to lose one's nerve usually used with outseemed 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 Since 2014, the shop has been serving other savory foods like salmon croquette sandwiches, Amish chicken wings, and black-eyed peas and collard green soup. Andrea Kramar, USA TODAY, "How does a sweet potato café survive in the pandemic? This Black-owned small business in Detroit is battling odds.," 5 Sep. 2020 Haven’t come in contact with a party platter of chicken wings ever since. Joseph Goodman |, al, "A college football season like no other is here," 2 Sep. 2020 The menu, still being finalized, will include gastropub staples such as hamburgers ground in-house, chicken wings and charcuterie plates. Phillip Valys,, "Gingers Bar and Restaurant, from Two& Las Olas alumni, coming to Oakland Park," 2 Sep. 2020 The menu included collard greens with ham hocks, macaroni and cheese, honey glazed chicken wings, salmon croquettes, and smothered steak. cleveland, "3News anchor-reporter Tiffany Tarpley talks favorite dining choices: Five for Friday," 28 Aug. 2020 Disease control centers in China have detected the new coronavirus on frozen chicken wings, according to Reuters. Colleen Stinchcombe, SELF, "Frozen Chicken Wings Tested Positive for Coronavirus—Should You Care?," 18 Aug. 2020 Included in this barbecue-centric pack is three brisket sandwiches, one cheese and jalapeno sausage, one rattle snake sausage, four smoked chicken wings, potato salad, coleslaw, chips and drinks. Brayden Garcia, Dallas News, "Texas Rangers’ ‘Field to Table’ delivers hot dogs, pizza and other ballpark snacks," 18 Aug. 2020 Lunches featured chimichurra salmon, Parmesan chicken wings and Pascale Creole shrimp. Lesley Kennedy, CNN Underscored, "9 delicious keto meal and snack delivery services," 17 Aug. 2020 But test results for people who might have had contact with the chicken wings have so far come back negative, the statement said. Tara John, CNN, "What you need to know about coronavirus on Friday, August 14," 14 Aug. 2020 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, "The Importance of the Post Office to American Democracy," 17 Aug. 2020 Maria cut chicken thighs shoulder to shoulder with co-workers who coughed and ran fevers. USA Today, "Cheap chicken, beef came at a cost. How American meat plants bred coronavirus hot spots.," 22 May 2020 Popcorn and chicken wing stands were open, though fewer than on a normal day., "Shanghai Disneyland Reopens With Mask Rule, Fever Checks," 10 May 2020 And thus, our long, arduous, chicken parm journey began. Molly Baz, Bon Appétit, "How Molly Baz Developed BA’s Best Chicken Parm—and Lived to Tell the Tale," 1 May 2020 End Zone’s top-sellers include chicken wing, pizza and draft beer, Lowe says. Matt Wake |, al, "What’s coming to former Moe’s BBQ in South Huntsville?," 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, "Every Desk Needs a Sauce, and This Is Mine," 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, "What’s coming to former Moe’s BBQ in South Huntsville?," 31 Jan. 2020 This is the recipe worth stocking up for when chicken thighs go on sale. Becky Krystal, Washington Post, "Six pantry-friendly dinners that will save you time and money," 30 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The exception to this sacred rule however, has always been chicken. Adrian Spinelli,, "Barbecued Brazilian-style red-wine chicken wings bring unforgettable zing," 28 Aug. 2020 Now, Koki, who is from Peru, is taking the reins with a Peruvian set: pollo alla brasa marinated in aji panca, fried yucca, chicken fat rice and a red onion salad dressed with key lime juice. Soleil Ho,, "Oakland’s in-demand jerk chicken pop-up is pushing boundaries," 27 Aug. 2020 Prices at the supermarket spiked, putting simple items like rice, fish, and chicken out of reach for many families. Seema Jilani, The New York Review of Books, "Broken Glass, Blood, and Anguish: Beirut After the Blast," 18 Aug. 2020 Popular dishes include shrimp Mosca, chicken a la grande and baked oysters Mosca, made with breadcrumps and Italian seasonings., "Out_To_Eat-Long 8-18-20," 17 Aug. 2020 What’s strange is that people in the U.S. are eating more food than ever, especially chicken. Robin Kaiser-schatzlein, The New Republic, "Monopolies Make Their Own Rules," 7 July 2020 Anyone can go online to order any of 3,000 items — from hot dogs to chicken to spray bottles of sanitizer — via the company’s website:, which says there's a minimum order of $100. Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press, "Major food supplier for metro Detroit restaurants, casinos is now selling to the public," 25 Mar. 2020 From 'Bama-style chicken sandwiches to to chicken schnitzel, here are our 8 best chicken sandwich recipes. Saveur Editors, Saveur, "The 8 Best Chicken Sandwiches to Upgrade Your Workday Lunch," 5 May 2017 Lunch will be chicken with gnocchi soup, salad, a breadstick and dessert. Carol Kovach, cleveland, "U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety courses offered in Lakewood: A Place in the Sun," 14 Jan. 2020

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for chicken

Last Updated

16 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Chicken.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for chicken


How to pronounce chicken (audio)

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
informal : a person who is afraid



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

informal : 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.

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