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 chicken dance will, once again, be danced en masse, led this year by nine local celebrities on separate stages. Polly Campbell,, "Everything you need to know about Oktoberfest Zinzinnati," 16 Sep. 2019 At this year’s Jamboree, the $45 ticket got you a roast beef or chicken breast dinner. Benjamin Rasmussen, New York Times, "‘A Cowboy Has to Sing’: Scenes From a Chuck Wagon Jamboree," 13 Sep. 2019 Get a burger or fried chicken sliders with all the fixings or chipotle hummus & flatbread for $6.95. Georgann Yara, azcentral, "13 places for happy hour in Tempe," 13 Sep. 2019 Sheehan has advocated for additional sidewalks and pedestrian safety as well as the city’s backyard chicken program and the purchase of Constitution Green for $3.3 million to save a 100-plus-year-old live oak tree. Ryan Gillespie,, "Orlando mayor, City Council races are set. One incumbent wins re-election without opposition.," 13 Sep. 2019 In a separate dry sauté pan, cook the chicken thigh meat until no longer pink. Bibby Gignilliat, The Mercury News, "Quick Cook: This Mexican “lasagna” is a total crowd-pleaser," 11 Sep. 2019 Add chicken stock and nutmeg to pot and bring liquid to a boil. The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, "Keto Cauliflower Soup," 11 Sep. 2019 Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken thighs to a bowl. NBC News, "An Instant Pot chicken teriyaki recipe that goes from freezer to table in 20 minutes," 5 Sep. 2019 Two years ago her then-2 -year-old terrier mix, Bessie, heard a ruckus outside near the neighbor’s chicken coop and jumped through an open window before she could be corralled. Sara Cardine, La Cañada Valley Sun, "Coyote encounters too close for some La Cañada residents, pet owners," 5 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

No need to keep chicken thighs whole — cubing them and spearing them on skewers is a great and fun way to serve ’em up. Kari Sonde, Washington Post, "Go thigh high with 8 weeknight-friendly chicken dinners," 12 Sep. 2019 Also try the chicken nuggets that, by the way, aren't actually chicken nuggets — rather, they're made of a vegetarian protein that comes from a mushroom. Emily Sabens, Indianapolis Star, "Kid-friendly restaurants: 9 places in Indianapolis with the best children's menus," 29 Aug. 2019 Crispy Sesame Chicken Schnitzel Total time: 30 minutes 2 servings Note: Pull the skin off each chicken thigh; lay flat and freeze in plastic wrap for another use, if desired. Bonnie S. Benwick, The Denver Post, "Need a golden brown chicken schnitzel that’s crispy without being greasy? This is it.," 14 Aug. 2019 Move pieces around as necessary to adjust for hot spots and so chicken cooks evenly without excess browning. Jeanmarie Brownson, Twin Cities, "Homemade harissa sauce sparks ordinary grilled chicken," 11 July 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Chicken expert: That meat isn't chicken Dr. Amit Morey, an assistant professor of poultry sciences at Auburn University, warns viewers to be cautious. Joshua Bote, USA TODAY, "Relax: That viral video of 'zombie chicken' crawling off a plate isn't chicken (probably)," 26 July 2019 But watching Harvey end his second big league relief appearance with a 100 mph fastball and get his first major league victory Tuesday night had to be chicken soup for the soul of their beleaguered fan base. Peter Schmuck,, "Schmuck: Orioles’ arrival of Hunter Harvey, early progress of Adley Rutschman make rebuild more bearable," 22 Aug. 2019 Several big chains buy Farmer Focus chicken to sell under their own labels. Thomas Heath, Washington Post, "Corwin Heatwole believes the home team can produce a better bird," 12 July 2019 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

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

5 Oct 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).


to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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