: a female chicken especially over a year old
broadly : a female bird
: the female of various mostly aquatic animals (such as lobsters or fish)
: woman
especially : a fussy middle-aged woman

Examples of hen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Male turkeys will try to impress hens by strutting in the middle of a field or pasture. Steve Waters, Miami Herald, 9 Feb. 2024 Following government rules, Weber’s company, Sunrise Farms, had to slaughter its entire flock of egg-laying hens — 550,000 birds — to prevent the disease from infecting other farms in Sonoma County north of San Francisco. Terry Chea, Chicago Tribune, 27 Jan. 2024 Some females are kept to breed — like battery hens — but hundreds of thousands of the adults are boxed up to be sent out into the world. Stephanie Nolen and Eleanor Lutz. Photography and Video By Federico Rios Escobar For The New York Times. Eleanor Lutz, New York Times, 29 Sep. 2023 Shortages of egg-laying hens led the cost of eggs to more than double in 2022. Victoria Sayo Turner, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Sep. 2023 The couple cook at home every day, just as people did 80 years ago, gathering veggies freshly picked from the garden and eggs from the backyard flock of hens. Andrea Darr, Kansas City Star, 30 Jan. 2024 Now myriad commentators are running in circles clucking like a flock of wet hens. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, 18 Jan. 2024 The garden has a busy poultry house filled with clucking guinea fowl and laying hens. Jacques Kelly, Baltimore Sun, 16 Jan. 2024 Grouse gather on the lek, where the hens watch males display. Phil Bourjaily, Field & Stream, 11 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old English henn; akin to Old English hana rooster — more at chant

First Known Use

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

Time Traveler
The first known use of hen was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near hen

Cite this Entry

“Hen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hen. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a female chicken especially over a year old
: a female of any bird

More from Merriam-Webster on hen

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