1. (also henny) a woman, usu. over 30.
|Verse Libel 73: The darest henne the Cockrelle hath.‘Wanton Bird’ in May & Bryson|
|Misogonus in (1906) II iv: Ah! mine own henbird, I must needs lay thee o’ th’ lips.|
|Taming of the Shrew II i: kath.: What is your crest? A coxcomb? pet.: A combless cock, so Kate will be my hen.|
|Westward Hoe V i: He who shall misse his hen, if hee be a right Cocke indeede, will watch the other from treading.|
|Roaring Girle III ii: ’Tis one of Hercules’ labours to tread one of these city hens, because their cocks are still crowing over them.|
|Island Princess III i: (aside) That’s the old Hen, the brood bird? How she bustles?|
|Eng. Moor IV iv: But saw you not a Moor-hen there [...] She is queen / Of the Nights triumph.|
|Hudibras Redivivus I:11 5: This same Slit-deal Tabernacle / Where Coxcombs Crow, and old Hens Cackle.|
|He Would be a Soldier VI ii: sir o.: Why, what the devil, man! aren’t you content with one of my chickens, but you must have my old hen in the bargain? la. o.: Old hen! sir o.: Yes, my Lady; when I had you first you were no pullet.|
|Willy Wood & Greedy Grizzle 20: Thou’s stark-mad wrong, my bonny hinny.|
|Sporting Mag. Apr. IV 54/1: John Partridge, Esq. [...] having proved a cruel bird, by unnaturally pairing off with another hen by the name of Ann Thornton.|
|Correspondence (1888) I 5: Lady Henrietta (vulgarly called Lady Henny) Grierson.Memoir|
|Life in London (1869) 313: [note] He threw the Pocket Book over to his hen.|
|Finish to Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 244: All characters are safe here [...] The cocks are considered to be game, and the hens belong to the same breed, but chickens cannot be admitted.|
|Devil In London III ii: Oh, I forgot – women can’t whistle – hens don’t whistle.|
|Bell’s Life in Sydney 8 Jan. 3/1: Mrs catherine White and Miss Catherine Connell (birds of a feather, the one being a hen, the other a chicken).|
|Paved with Gold 265: I only did it that I might hear the squeak of your quail pipe, my jolly hen.|
|Border Watch (Mt Gambier, SA) 31 Oct. 3/2: THE LATEST SLANG CREATION IN NEW YORK [...] A man is ‘nibs,’ a woman a ‘hen’.|
|Queen’s Sailors III 91: You shut up, or it will be worse for you, my pretty hens.|
|‘’Arry on Woman Rights’ Punch 2 Apr. 156/1: And whenever there’s hens on the crow, ’Arry’s good for a hinnings — no fear!|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Oct. 12/1: But perhaps they don’t anticipate having to go out in a broiling sun and buy the carrots for the gubernatorial dinner, to say nothing of having to set the gubernatorial hen, and take the lord’s old dress suit to be dyed.|
|Fifty Years (2nd edn) II 33: One or other of these old hens would wait till I staked then [...] she would pretend to stake too.|
|John Henry 90: The old hen with the languishing lamps was still on my trail.|
|Sun. Times (Perth) 12 Aug. 1/1: The public wait until those clucking hens have finished their controversy on croquet.|
|DN IV:iii 197: hen, an over-officious woman. ‘The old hen, our landlady, insisted on going with us as a chaperon. I call that nerve.’.‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in|
|Babbitt (1974) 202: I suppose she’s one of those hens whose husband ‘doesn’t understand her’!|
|Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1962) 89: It’s a drowsy kind of job. Swapping backchat with old hens.|
|Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 88: The 25 to 30 bracket takes in the ‘fine young hens.’ Between 30 and 33 they are just ‘fine hens,’ and over 35 they are just plain ‘hens’.|
|Jimmy Brockett 161: She has been telling all the old hens over at Mosman that Sadie must have been hypnotised.|
|Night of the Iguana Act I: It’s a test of strength between two men, in this case, and a bus-load of old wet hens.|
|Confessions of Proinsias O’Toole 88: Miss Hagan has embraced the Lord Jesus Christ [...] and has jacked in the pagan conspiracy of Rome for good an’ all. Haven’t ye, hen?|
|Grass Arena (1990) 108: Johnny, this is Mary. Say hello to the wee hen. We’re getting married next week.|
|Beyond Black 328: Hens filled the doorway; their mouths were ajar.|
|Locked Ward (2013) 311: ‘How are you, hen?’ I asked.|
2. a prostitute.
|Northern Lasse I v: Are you the Cock-bawd to the Hen was here, erewhile, Sir.|
|Hollander IV i: There are knights in towne who know their Ladies to be Hens oth’ game.|
|‘A Free Parliament Letany’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) ii 185: From a Dunghill Cock, and Hen of the Game.|
|Squire of Alsatia III i: He is a Ruffian, and a Cock-bawd to that Hen.|
|Amorous Bugbears 5: So that the Drury Nymphs, and Covent-Garden Bullies, if there were any Cock-Bawd or Hen Procuress, of their particular Acquaintance, might the better judge, who was the fittest Person to disguise their Infirmities, and run the risque of, No Purchase, no Pay.|
|New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: hen [...] a whore.|
|‘A New Version Of Regent Street’ Cockchafer 15: To the Hens of Regent Street they’ll flock, / And each bring with him a game Cock.|
|Crim.-Con. Gaz. 10 Aug. 266/3: [advert] ‘Larks!’ quoth my lady, and for supper too — / ‘Give my lord hens, and me a cock or two’.|
3. a mistress, a girlfriend, a wife.
|‘Cuckolds Haven’ in Merry Songs and Ballads (1897) III 42: Not your Italian Locks [...] Can keepe these Hens from Cocks.|
|Orig. Pontoon Songster 15: One day with my prarie hen out I was walking.‘Jolly Sam Johnson’|
4. a quart pot.
|Handley Cross (1854) 344: Deavilboger [...] had marked his appreciation of the festive season of the year, by sending him a large grey hen of whiskey.|
|(con. 1840s–50s) London Labour and London Poor I 256/1: The hens and chickens of the roguish low lodging-houses are the publicans’ pewter measures; the bigger vessels are ‘hens.’.|
5. (North/Scot., also hinny) a term of address to a woman; occas. man.
|Rhymes of Northern Bards 9: [song title] ‘Ma’ Canny Hinny’ [...] Where has te been, ma’ canny hinny?Jr. (ed.)|
|Cumberland Pacquet 12 Dec. 4/5: Come hinny come, gan hyem wi’ me.|
|Cumberland Pacquet 12 Dec. 4/5: Hout, hinny, had th’ blabbin’ jaw.|
|Morpeth Herald 1 Dec. 3/4: ‘Hush, hush, hinney,’ said the prisoner [...] ‘don’t cook my goose’.|
|‘Canny Newcassel’ Laughing Songster 107: Ah hinnies, out cum the King while we were there.|
|Newcastle Courant 20 Aug. 5/2: Ah, canny hinny, an’ can ye tell a poor crazy woman [...] if there’s a sea-captain man i’ this toon.|
|Berwicks. News 1 June 8/2: [headline] ‘A Bit of Yer Pie, Hinny’.|
|Sun. Post 10 May 9/2: ‘Hullo, Hen,’ he said.|
|Sunderland Dly Echo 1 Apr. 5/3: The flower sellers [...] with the well-known cry: ‘Only flowers or violets, hinny? All fresh, toopence a bunch, hinny’.|
|Cut and Run (1963) 66: ‘Sure I like ye, hen,’ I gasped. ‘Ah think you’re a smashin’ burd.’.|
|Strip Jack 153: Sheena, hen, get on to tadger-breath in Liverpool and tell him tomorrow morning definite.|
|Filth 87: Make it easy on yourself hen.|
|Set in Darkness 172: The street people knew her now, called her ‘doll’ and ‘hen’.|
|Decent Ride 46: Ah must huv been dreamin aboot ye, hen.|
6. (US campus) a female student.
|DN II:i 40: hen, n. A woman student. General at co-educational institutions.‘College Words & Phrases’ in|
7. (S.Afr./W.I., Tob., also hennie) a male homosexual.
|Born in the RSA (1997) 45: bles: Hey! My brother, you know what’s a rabbit? charmaine: What? Ou Hennie.‘Outers’|
8. (Aus.) wine.
|(ref. to 1920s–30s) Boozing out in Melbourne Pubs 15: The juice of the grape was known, among other things, as ‘hen.’ [...] a whimsical tribute to the liquor’s reputed power to make chaps who drank it behave like chooks, that is, lay on the spot.|
9. (US black) an unkempt, unattractive woman, esp. with messy hair.
|Banjo 20: When I see how these heah poah ole disabled hens am making a hash of a good thing with a gang a cheap no-’count p-i’s, I just imagine what a high-yaller queen of a place could do oveah heah turned loose in this sweet clovah.|
|Runnin’ Down Some Lines 144: Synonyms for chickenhead are [...] hen, thunder chicken, nail head and short nails.|
(US) a women-only party or gathering.
|Amer. Thes. of Sl. 94.7: Henfest, a dinner for women.|
1. large and small pewter pots.
|,||Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.|
|(con. 1840s–50s) London Labour and London Poor I 256/1: ‘Hens and chickens’ are a favourite theft [...] The hens and chickens of the roguish low lodging-houses are the publicans’ pewter measures; the bigger vessels are ‘hens;’ the smaller are ‘chickens’.|
2. (US gambling) large or small stakes.
|Und. Speaks n.p.: Hens and chickens, willing to gamble for either big or small stakes.|
(UK Und.) an effeminate or homosexual man.
|New and Improved Flash Dict. n.p.: Hen-cock half man half molly.|
(US) a women’s college.
|Babbitt 18: Oh, ain’t we select since we went to that hen college!|
|Dict. of Invective (1991) 191: hen college (a women’s college).|
1. a brothel.
|Real Life in Ireland 50: Sal [...] would make little of spending ten pounds on a supper to welcome an old cock back to the hen-roost.|
|(con. 1940s) Sowers of the Wind 203: There’s a do on up at the Hen-coop.|
2. (US campus, also hennery) a women’s dormitory.
|DN II:i 40: hen-coop, n. Dormitory for women students [...] hen-roost, n. The dormitory for women.‘College Words and Phrases’ in|
|DN III:ii 140: hen-coop, hen-house, hennery, n. Young women’s dormitory. ‘The hen-coop’s just full up with girls.’.‘Words from Northwest Arkansas’ in|
3. (US) a beauty parlour.
|Edwardsville Intelligencer (IL) 14 Sept. 4/4: The Flappers’ Dictionary [...] Hen coop: A beauty parlor.|
a fight between two (occas. more) women.
|Pinktoes (1989) 177: Big Burley was not one to be cheated out of his glory by a hen fight.|
|Cat’s Eye (1989) 354: There’s something titillating about it [...] Henfighting, it’s called.|
see hen house n. (1)
a man who is dominated by his wife.
|New and Improved Flash Dict.|
see separate entry.
(US) a man who is seen to be over involved in household affairs and similar ‘women’s concerns’; thus an effeminate man; also as v.
|Tuapeka Times (Otago) 24 Sept. 6/7: [headline] Men who Hen-Hussy about the Kitchen.|
|DN 1.74: Hen-hussy [...] a man who concerns himself overmuch with household matters or housekeeping [DARE].|
|Amer. Thes. of Sl. 405/2: Effeminate man...hen-hussy [DARE].|
(US Und.) a women’s prison.
|Scene (1996) 128: Next month you’re doing twenty to life in the hen mill.|
a women-only get-together; thus hen, an attendee.
|‘Lady Pokingham’ in Pearl 5 Nov. 23: ‘Victoria, give us a little party in your room to-night?’ ‘Yes,’ she answered. ‘But only a hen party; ourselves and Corisande.’.|
|Her Two Millions Ch. xxvii: As it was a ‘hen party’ to which his wife had gone he had no wish to present himself at the Gibsons' pension before ten.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Jan. 11/3: The hen picnic […] is not a success, partly because a limp young man with a nice tie and an expression of adoration is essential to the average girl’s happiness at a picnic.|
|One Basket (1947) 75: ‘Some hen party!’ they all said.‘Un Morso doo Pang’ in|
|Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 21 Jan. 2/4: As useless as mistletoe at a hen party.|
|(con. 1920s) Studs Lonigan (1936) 680: Regular hen party there, he thought.Judgement Day in|
|Hy Lit’s Unbelievable Dict. of Hip Words 49: hen party – A lot of girls gossiping.|
|Dict. of Invective (1991) 191: hen party (a get-together of them).|
|Awaydays 84: Laden Christmas shoppers bustling off home and flushed Hen Night crews already starting to come out for the night.|
|Sun. Times 6 Feb. 17: It is now the prospect of a hen night that should send the maitre d’ scuttling for the sanctuary of his wine cellar.|
|Beyond Black 325: At the hen parties [...] Colette sat in other women’s kitchens.|
|Oxford Student 20 May 32/2: Fuelled by a sense of nervous anticipation [...] me and my hens entered.|
1. (US Und.) a women’s prison [pen n.2 (1)].
|Prison Sl. 4: Hen Pen A prison for women.|
|(con. 1940s–60s) Straight from the Fridge Dad.|
2. (Aus.) a women-only room in a local hotel (i.e. public house).
|‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxv 6/2: hen pen: A ladies’ parlour in a suburban hotel.|
see hen and chickens
(US) a cowboy’s blanket or underwear, usu. filled with feathers.
|Appeal (St Paul, MN) 12 Apr. 1/2: Why, that ‘henskin’ of yourn ain’t fit to ride a mess wagon, let alone a bronk.|
|N.Y. Tribune 23 Aug. 5/3: It was a silent, surly group, with none of the usual jest and badinage over ‘henksin blankets’ [...] a cold morning usually insoired.|
|DA].Gone Haywire 62: If, as sometimes, the soogan was stuffed with feathers, it was termed a hen-skin [|
|DA].Trails I Rode 49: I didn’t have much of a bed, just a few hen-skins and an old sougan [|
see pussy-whipped under pussy n.
|Chances IV iii: What should our Hen o’th’ Game else Do here without her?|
|Hollander IV i: There are knights in towne who know their Ladies to be Hens oth’ game, and live by tredding.|
|Eng. Rogue I 269: I never was not much inclined to love him, because he was of mean dastardly Spirit, and ever hated that a Dunghill Cock should tread a Hen of the Game.|
|Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 54: [as cit. 1665].|
|Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 253: Tireuse, f. A woman expert in venery; ‘a hen of the game’.|
a stalwart working-class woman.
|No. 5 John Street 228: Great Tilda! [...] this hen of the walk of our slum is really herself in all her effects [...] From her cradle, if she ever had one, she has faced the world, and fought her way in it to such poor place as she holds.|
(US black) to dance with an older woman.
|‘Jiver’s Bible’ in Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.|
SE in slang uses
(US) chicken’s eggs, either raw or cooked; cit. 1898 is fig.: the ref. is to a ‘good egg’.
|Harper’s Mag. VIII 280/2: A young lady is said to have asked a gentleman at a table of a hotel ‘down East’ to pass her the ‘hen fruit.’ She pointed to a plate of eggs.|
|N.Devon Jrnl 9 Apr. 5/6: Eggs. An American paper states [...] genteel young ladies in the country call [them] ‘hen fruit’.|
|Bolivar Bull. (TN) 26 Feb. 3/1: Why don’t our country cousins [...] fetech in butter, eggs [...] Ye local would like some cow and hen fruit.|
|Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 17 Dec. 16: [pic. caption] How Two Sister Artists Braced a Rum-Soaked Comedian up to His Part and Saved Him from a Baptism of Antiquated Hen Fruit.|
|‘Dict. of Diningroom Sl.’ in Brooklyn Daily Eagle 3 July 13: ‘Hen fruit’ is boiled eggs.|
|Illus. Police News (NY) 20 Apr. 1: [pic. caption] Back number hen fruit in service to make Brooklyn sidewalks safe for women promenaders .|
|A Pink ’Un and a Pelican 182: Frequent allusions to him as the holder of a good place in the human catalogue of attenuated hen-fruit do not serve to sweeten him.|
|DN II:i 40: hen-fruit, n. Eggs.‘College Words and Phrases’ in|
|Sun. Times (Perth) 4 Aug. 3s/5: His intention [was] to show what can be done in the way of hen-fruit production.|
|Wyoming (1908) 105: ‘Hen fruit, sunny side up,’ shouted Reddy.|
|Sun. Times (Perth) 26 June 2nd sect. 12/6: There’s money in hen-fruit. A Belmont poultry farmer is alleged to be clearing £2000 a year from the exertions of the conscientious chook.|
|Smoke Bellew Pt 10 [Internet] I heard tell only yesterday that he’s got all of seven hundred in stock! Twenty-one hundred dollars for hen-fruit!|
|in Lost Squadron 68: Kindly check all cabbages, Irish confetti, and decayed henfruit at the door.|
|Temporary Crusaders 5 Jan. [Internet] There was an old man of Jerusalem, / Who habitually used to bamboozl ’em / By selling our men / the fruit of the hen, / At three times the price that he should sell ’em.|
|Mohave County Miner (AZ) 30 Sept. 7/3: Dr C.C. Telleson is a great lover of fresh hen fruit.|
|AS VIII:1 27: henfruit. Eggs, almost unobtainable luxuries.‘Ranch Diction of the Texas Panhandle’ in|
|Thrilling Western May [Internet] ‘Pig strip and hen fruit,’ Crittenden ordered.‘Secret Guns’ in|
|Show Biz from Vaude to Video 18: Spreading a net in front of the stage to catch the vegetables and hen fruit tossed from the audience.|
|Melodeon 4: I gathered, washed, and crated hen fruit till I couldn’t face it boiled, fried, or scrambled.|
|Lily on the Dustbin 123: Hen fruit/cackleberries are eggs.|
|Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 56/1: hen fruit hen’s eggs.|
|Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].|
|Guardian 11 June [Internet] [Trump] is scared to get a barrage of raw eggs shampoo [...] You must be yolking...Do you really think that a man wearing a live merkin on his head would be deterred by hen fruit missiles?|
(US) stupid, foolish, scatter-brained.
|Freeman’s Jrnl (Dublin) 7 Oct. 2/3: Your hen-headed people assume a wrong position.|
|John o’Groat Jrnl 11 Apr. 2/7: Ye hae plenty o’ men in Wick, eddicated men like mysel’, an’ [...] if they’re no henheaded, they’ll do.|
|Belfast News Ltr 24 Oct. 7/8: They might just as well be fowls! For indeed, is the mother quite hen-headed.|
|Pall Mall Gaz. 5 June 2/3: It is a pity that such hen-headed folly should receive the least encouragement.|
|Aberdeen Jrnl 24 Nov. 5/4: Mr Asquith and his friends seem to have grown hen-headed in the clamour and turmoil.|
|Hist. of Mr Polly (1946) 71: ‘Hen-witted gigglers,’ said Mr. Polly.|
|City Of The World 264: No time to be hen-witted when you’re looking down the muzzle of a barker.|
|DN III:viii 578: hen-headed, adj. Brainless. ‘That hen-headed cuss can’t do anything you tell him.’.‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in|
|Hull Dly Mail 11 Jan. 4/5: The hen-headed woman who sets herself up as socially superior to her sister of lesser means.|
|Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1962) 70: Half of them were those hen-witted middle-aged women.|
see chicken-hearted adj.
see separate entries.
1. see under mad as... adj.
2. see mopey as a wet hen adj.
3. see under silly as… adj.