Definition of chicken in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtʃɪkɪn/


1A domestic fowl kept for its eggs or meat, especially a young one: rationing was still in force and most people kept chickens
More example sentences
  • Most of us think we're familiar with the sounds of the domestic chicken, but not all fowl calls are created equal.
  • As birds go, the domestic chicken is hardly built for high-performance flight.
  • This brief summary demonstrates the level of understanding that has been gained in studying the scutate scales of the chicken.
1.1 [mass noun] Meat from a chicken: roast chicken
More example sentences
  • The meats consisted of soft shelled crab covered in spices, tender roast beef and chicken.
  • The main types of meat are pork, chicken, and mutton.
  • This tells us that she won't eat red meat, chicken, pork, fish or seafood.
2 [mass noun] informal A game in which the first person to lose their nerve and withdraw from a dangerous situation is the loser: he was killed by a car after he lay in the road playing chicken
More example sentences
  • Bondholders are playing a dangerous game of chicken because they feel they have little to lose.
  • I think it's sort of a game of chicken until then.
  • It's like we're playing a game of chicken in reverse.
2.1 [count noun] A coward.
Example sentences
  • You're right - I am a chicken, scared of everything and anything.
  • Candy was right, Jane was being a coward and chicken.


[predicative] informal
Cowardly: I was too chicken to go to court


[no object] (chicken out) informal
Withdraw from or fail in something through lack of nerve: the referee chickened out of giving a penalty
More example sentences
  • But every time I almost get up the nerve to go and speak to her, I chicken out.
  • Maybe you'll intend to come clean but chicken out.
  • She said, ‘We need to raise a better generation that won't chicken out.’



don't count your chickens before they're hatched

see count1.

like a headless chicken

informal In a panic-stricken and unthinking manner: players were running about like headless chickens, going in different directions
More example sentences
  • I'm over the moon she is back even though I am running around like a headless chicken after her.
  • Sometimes I find myself sitting around the house doing very little, others I seem to be rushing around like a headless chicken.
  • Do you ever get days when you're running round like a headless chicken?


Old English cīcen, cȳcen, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch kieken and German Küchlein, and probably also to cock1.

  • A word that probably has the same ancient root as cock. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched is recorded from the 16th century, and refers to one of Aesop's fables of 2,000 years earlier, in which a girl carrying a pail of milk to market dreams about buying chickens with the profit from the milk and becoming rich through selling eggs. In her daydream she sees herself as being so wealthy that she would simply toss her head at all her would-be lovers, at which point she tosses her head and spills the milk. Chickens coming home to roost is a form of the proverb, dating from the 14th century, curses, like chickens, come home to roost.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: chick¦en

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