Share this entry

Share this page


Line breaks: hen
Pronunciation: /hɛn

Definition of hen in English:


1A female bird, especially of a domestic fowl.
Example sentences
  • He hid near nests of black woodpeckers, kingfishers, northern hazel hens and Eurasian sparrow hawks.
  • Tragically it's beyond them to understand the instinct that will make even a domestic hen attack anyone coming between her and her chicks.
  • The female red junglefowl is leaner than tame hens.
1.1 (hens) Domestic fowls of either sex.
Example sentences
  • The only things living were a sow, her piglets, and some hens scratching in the dirt.
  • Shot over a five-year period, the programme reveals secret glimpses into the ordinary, everyday life of cattle, sheep, hens and wildlife on the Cotswold slopes.
  • Children will also delight in the baby piglets, kittens, ducks, and hens that roam free.
1.2Used in names of birds, especially waterbirds of the rail family, e.g. moorhen, native hen.
Example sentences
  • Pan-roasted guinea hen, golden as the duck, is sparked by a sauce of tomato and lovage.
  • Incubating common eider hens were caught on the nest with hand-nets on selected islands in the study area.
1.3Scottish Used as an affectionate term of address to a girl or woman: and I really like you too, hen
More example sentences
  • One creaky old man shouted in frustration, ‘I just cannae understand ya, hen!’
  • If anything really exciting has happened to you in the past month, please tell me in the comments because I just cannae go on like this, hen.
  • Well ah'm sorry if ah upset ye but it's too late noo, hen.
2A female lobster, crab, or salmon.
Example sentences
  • Down below me in a shallow margin I watched a ragged hen salmon, bursting with eggs, preparing to spawn with a huge cock fish that had a kype like a fist and a tail like a shovel.
  • It went into the ‘fish bank’ - a cage in the river where the best hens are kept for breeding at the end of the season.


Old English henn, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hen and German Henne.


as rare (or scarce) as hen's teeth

Extremely rare.
Example sentences
  • She acknowledged the existence of differences between men and women, but argued that the reason ‘women are as scarce as hen's teeth’ in academia is due to discrimination.
  • In Australia (where I'm from) these units are as scarce as hen's teeth.
  • Good, dedicated filing clerks are as rare as hen's teeth.

Definition of hen in:

Share this entry

Share this page


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?