chick·en | \ˈchi-kᵊn, 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

b : timid, cowardly

2 slang

a : insistent on petty details of duty or discipline

b : petty, unimportant


chickened; chickening\ˈchi-kᵊn-iŋ, 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

There, experts insert six skewers of food: cheeseburger sliders crowned by pickled eggs; four smoked chicken wings; alternating chunks of sausage and cheese. Thomas Vinciguerra, WSJ, "Waiter, There’s a Bloody Mary in My Chicken Dinner," 8 July 2018 Graze, a chicken-and-biscuits restaurant, was supposed to be his next project and was scheduled to open this year. Nichole Manna, star-telegram, "Crockett Row no longer affiliated with Chef Grady Spears," 5 July 2018 Proteins come next and include raw tuna, salmon, cooked shrimp, cooked chicken and tofu. Sarah Gish, kansascity, "Freestyle Poké: 5 things to know about River Market's popular Hawaiian-style cafe," 2 July 2018 That buying chicken wings and beer on the day of the Brumbacks murder didn't make their client a killer. CBS News, "Was revenge the motive behind Omaha stabbing deaths?," 2 June 2018 Finger foods like his lemongrass-adobo fried chicken wings, served with a calamansi schmaltz, will find a place on the table. Jean Trinh, Los Angeles Magazine, "What to Expect at Ma’am Sir, Silver Lake’s Newest Filipino Restaurant and Bar," 31 May 2018 What’s worrying is that Trump is willing to gamble with people’s livelihoods to play what amounts to a big game of chicken, which means an escalation may be inevitable. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Why Trump Might Lose His Trade War With China," 9 July 2018 Google also provided dishes for U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and Guam, featuring tembleque and fried chicken, respectively. Jennifer Calfas, Time, "The Fourth of July Google Doodle Celebrates Each State's Most Popular Holiday Recipes," 3 July 2018 While she had likely dined in dumpsters before her relocation to Washington, D.C., Rebecca’s diet in the White House consisted of chicken, eggs, green shrimp, persimmons and cream. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "For His Patriotic Birthday, Five Facts About Calvin Coolidge," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 Turn chicken breast side down and use shears to cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it (save for stock along with those wing tips). Claire Saffitz, Bon Appetit, "Chicken Under a Skillet with Lemon Pan Sauce," 26 Mar. 2018 Though the first restaurant to offer a version of the dish was Peking Mandarin, nearby neighbor Great Sea Restaurant (3254 W. Lawrence Ave.) was the first to introduce a unique Chicago variation: the lollipop chicken wing ($15.49 for a platter). Nick Kindelsperger,, "Forget Buffalo wings — Korean fried chicken is better," 22 Mar. 2018 Season chicken thighs with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "Grilled Chicken with Herbed Corn Salsa," 21 Oct. 2016

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Everything from the granola and magic bars to chicken salad and soup is made from scratch. Michelle Newman, San Antonio Express-News, "Where to eat, shop and sleep in Comfort," 11 June 2018 Entertainment by Randy Renner begins at 11 a.m. Lunch features roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes, and broccoli; alternate menu is chicken tortilla soup, cottage cheese and fruit on romaine. Linda Mcintosh,, "Bookmobiles put on parties at parks...," 19 Jan. 2018 Question: When did the light bulb come on that this wasn't really chicken? David Sharos, Naperville Sun, "Chef's Choice: Can't beat grilled meat in this chef's book," 5 Apr. 2018 Pour into a large pot and add 8 cups chicken stock. Adina Steiman, WSJ, "Unclutter Your Cooking," 30 Mar. 2018 Beer can chicken and the best fish fry of your life? Jason Tesauro, Esquire, "Minneapolis Is the Food World's Best Kept Secret," 31 Jan. 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

19 Oct 2018

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

: a person who is afraid



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

: too afraid to do something


chick·en | \ˈchi-kən \

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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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).


one that holds something together

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