Definition of hen in English:

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Pronunciation: /hɛn/


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.


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.


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

  • Ultimately the word hen is related to Latin canere ‘to sing’. Apart from singing hens, what could be rarer than hen's teeth? Hens do not have teeth, so to describe something as as rare as hen's teeth is tantamount to saying that it is non-existent. The phrase was originally used in the USA during the mid 19th century. The henpecked husband has long been a staple of comedies and seaside postcards, and the word goes back to The Genuine Remains (1680) by Samuel Butler. The expression comes from the way that hens will sometimes peck at the feathers of other birds.

Words that rhyme with hen

Adrienne, again, amen, Ardennes, Behn, Ben, Benn, Bren, cayenne, Cévennes, Dairen, den, en, fen, gen, glen, Glenn, Guyenne, Gwen, julienne, Karen, ken, Len, Loren, men, Nene, Ogaden, paren, pen, Penn, Phnom Penh, Rennes, Shenzhen, Sun Yat-sen, ten, then, Tlemcen, when, wren, yen, zazen, Zen

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