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)

1a : scared

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 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


We had chicken for dinner. It's just a spider, you chicken! Don't be such a big chicken.


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

The classic Berlin doner is made with veal, but beef and chicken are also popular. 1843, "Don’t knock the doner kebab," 10 July 2019 Popeyes Enjoy the Bigger Box filled with four pieces of bone-in chicken or six tenders, two regular sides, two biscuits and two apple pies for $10 through July 22. Chris Sims, Indianapolis Star, "Where to score restaurant deals and more in July around Indianapolis," 1 July 2019 So which comes first at Apple: the chicken or the egg? Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Catalyst deep dive: The future of Mac software according to Apple and devs," 1 July 2019 Their chicken nuggets and corn dogs are perfect options for the kiddos at your barbecue. Madeline Purdue, USA TODAY, "Your guide to a meatless, dairy-free and gluten-free Fourth of July barbecue," 28 June 2019 The attention has created a chicken-and-egg effect on the Democratic electorate. Mark K. Matthews, Scientific American, "Climate Comes Up at Democratic Debate, But with Few New Details," 27 June 2019 Put the oven on high and roast a chicken or pork chop and vegetables all on one tray. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "Food Network celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli due at Free Press Wine + Food event," 23 June 2019 Then came struggles on the court and fissures in the locker room—the chicken-and-egg essence of a discontent team. Rob Mahoney,, "The Celtics' Loss Is NBA Free Agency's Gain," 19 June 2019 Burger’ We’re getting used to seeing vegan alternatives to burger-beef appearing on the market, but ersatz chicken? Alan Murray, Fortune, "Facebook Reveals Its Cryptocurrency Play: CEO Daily," 18 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Manny Machado’s birthday cake is chicken McNuggets, fries, and a soda. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Padres notes: Machado’s McBirthday cake; Kirby Yates’ usage," 7 July 2019 But these menacing, chicken coop-like bins remind us of a misleading real estate listing — not exactly what you (or your infant) had in mind. Lauren Piro, Good Housekeeping, "The Intriguing History of 1930s Baby Cages," 23 June 2015 Spanish extra-virgin olive oil 3 pounds chicken parts, cut in serving-sized pieces 2 large cloves garlic, chopped ¼ tsp. Grace Young, ELLE Decor, "Spanish Culinary Ambassador," 5 July 2012 This healthier recipe uses just chicken stock (and no meat), and a mix of three kinds of greens. Steven Satterfield, Country Living, "Braised Early-Spring Greens," 22 Feb. 2011 The restaurant uses only chicken breast tenderloins, the strip of meat on the underside of a chicken breast that is considered a premium cut in the poultry business, and these are never frozen. Larry Olmsted, USA TODAY, "This fast-food chain serves one specialty," 30 May 2018 Measuring Spoons Plastic Bag Dutch Oven Spoon Tongs Medium Bowl Wire Rack Pat 4 chicken thighs dry with paper towels, then transfer to a large resealable plastic bag. Claire Saffitz, Bon Appetit, "The Basically Fried Chicken Sandwich," 28 May 2018 The broth in the wonton soup, for example, was simple and chicken-forward, and the wontons featured with the same sweet, firm shrimp that stars in many of the dim sum dishes. Kate Washington, sacbee, "Seafood is a real strength at this new dim-sum spot in Sacramento's central city | The Sacramento Bee," 25 May 2018 In a large baking dish, toss 1 1/4 pounds chicken breast cutlets with 1/4 cup barbecue sauce. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "BBQ-Ranch Chicken Wraps," 7 May 2015

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Place into a large roasting pan, add enough chicken stock to cover halfway up the leaves and cover the pan with aluminum foil tightly. 8. National Geographic, "Braised Goat Leg & Shoulder," 2 July 2019 But the culprit wasn't chicken, spinach, or any food intended for humans. Kellie Hwang, Indianapolis Star, "Dog treats were linked to salmonella in three Hoosiers. Here's how it happened.," 28 Nov. 2018 The menu includes such specialties as the Surf & Turf Papa for $14.99 or $8.99, which features shrimp and fajita meat, and the Chicken Lover Papa, which sells for $10.99 or $6.99 and has chicken breast meat and broccoli. Jennifer Bolton, Houston Chronicle, "Pasadena eatery finds starchy success with mammoth spuds," 20 June 2019 Some of it is more newsworthy, but of questionable veracity: Wolff claims that Mueller drafted an indictment of Trump but chickened out. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Is There a Right Way to Cover the Trump White House?," 6 June 2019 Gently fold in cornbread and add 3 cups chicken broth. Aleksandra Crapanzano, WSJ, "Everyone’s Secret-Favorite Thanksgiving Dish," 8 Nov. 2018 The Bundt pan roast chicken: A vast improvement on the once-ubiquitous beer can chicken, this roasting technique maximizes crispy, delicious skin by inserting the middle cone into the business end of the bird keeping it upright. Paul Stephen, San Antonio Express-News, "6 ways to use a Bundt pan you probably haven’t tried," 20 June 2018 College overtime is superior, especially since the NFL chickened out and instituted the weird you-get-another-chance-if-they-only-kick-a-field-goal rule. Andy Staples,, "‘Strategic Entertainment’ vs. Entertaining Entertainment: The Flip Side of the NFL-CFB Debate," 11 July 2018 Behind the bar, Rikki had begun to worry that Amidio really had chickened out. Chicago Tribune,, "Algren Award runner-up: "Am I Not Your Animal" by Matt Jones," 2 June 2018

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


1889, 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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Statistics for chicken

Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for chicken

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

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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
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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More from Merriam-Webster on chicken

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with chicken

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chicken

Spanish Central: Translation of chicken

Nglish: Translation of chicken for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of chicken for Arabic Speakers

Comments on chicken

What made you want to look up chicken? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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