Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hen n.

1. (also henny) a woman, usu. over 30.

[UK]T. Chaloner ‘Wanton Bird’ in May & Bryson Verse Libel 73: The darest henne the Cockrelle hath.
[UK]Misogonus in Farmer (1906) II iv: Ah! mine own henbird, I must needs lay thee o’ th’ lips.
[UK]Shakespeare Taming of the Shrew II i: kath.: What is your crest? A coxcomb? pet.: A combless cock, so Kate will be my hen.
[UK]Dekker & Webster Westward Hoe V i: He who shall misse his hen, if hee be a right Cocke indeede, will watch the other from treading.
[UK]Middleton & Dekker Roaring Girle III ii: ’Tis one of Hercules’ labours to tread one of these city hens, because their cocks are still crowing over them.
[UK]Fletcher Island Princess III i: (aside) That’s the old Hen, the brood bird? How she bustles?
[UK]R. Brome Eng. Moor IV iv: But saw you not a Moor-hen there [...] She is queen / Of the Nights triumph.
[UK]N. Ward Hudibras Redivivus I:11 5: This same Slit-deal Tabernacle / Where Coxcombs Crow, and old Hens Cackle.
[UK]F. Pilon 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.
[UK]‘Brother Rook’ Willy Wood & Greedy Grizzle 20: Thou’s stark-mad wrong, my bonny hinny.
[UK]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.
[UK]C.K. Sharpe Memoir Correspondence (1888) I 5: Lady Henrietta (vulgarly called Lady Henny) Grierson.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 313: [note] He threw the Pocket Book over to his hen.
Egan 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.
[UK]R.B. Peake Devil In London III ii: Oh, I forgot – women can’t whistle – hens don’t whistle.
[Aus]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).
[UK]A. Mayhew 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’.
[UK]E. Greey Queen’s Sailors III 91: You shut up, or it will be worse for you, my pretty hens.
[UK] ‘’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!
[Aus]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.
[UK]J. Astley 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.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ John Henry 90: The old hen with the languishing lamps was still on my trail.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 12 Aug. 1/1: The public wait until those clucking hens have finished their controversy on croquet.
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in 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.’.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 202: I suppose she’s one of those hens whose husband ‘doesn’t understand her’!
[UK]‘George Orwell’ Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1962) 89: It’s a drowsy kind of job. Swapping backchat with old hens.
[US]D. Burley 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’.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 161: She has been telling all the old hens over at Mosman that Sadie must have been hypnotised.
[US]T. Williams 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.
[Ire]J. Morrow 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?
[UK]J. Healy Grass Arena (1990) 108: Johnny, this is Mary. Say hello to the wee hen. We’re getting married next week.
[UK]H. Mantel Beyond Black 328: Hens filled the doorway; their mouths were ajar.
[UK]D. O’Donnell Locked Ward (2013) 311: ‘How are you, hen?’ I asked.

2. a prostitute.

[UK]R. Brome Northern Lasse I v: Are you the Cock-bawd to the Hen was here, erewhile, Sir.
[UK]H. Glapthorne Hollander IV i: There are knights in towne who know their Ladies to be Hens oth’ game.
[UK] ‘A Free Parliament Letany’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) ii 185: From a Dunghill Cock, and Hen of the Game.
[UK]T. Shadwell Squire of Alsatia III i: He is a Ruffian, and a Cock-bawd to that Hen.
[UK]N. Ward 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.
[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: hen [...] a whore.
[UK] ‘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.
[UK]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.

[UK] ‘Cuckolds Haven’ in Farmer Merry Songs and Ballads (1897) III 42: Not your Italian Locks [...] Can keepe these Hens from Cocks.
[US]‘Johnny Cross’ ‘Jolly Sam Johnson’ Orig. Pontoon Songster 15: One day with my prarie hen out I was walking.

4. a quart pot.

[UK]R.S. Surtees 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.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew 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.

[UK]J. Bell Jr. (ed.) Rhymes of Northern Bards 9: [song title] ‘Ma’ Canny Hinny’ [...] Where has te been, ma’ canny hinny?
[UK]Cumberland Pacquet 12 Dec. 4/5: Come hinny come, gan hyem wi’ me.
[UK]Cumberland Pacquet 12 Dec. 4/5: Hout, hinny, had th’ blabbin’ jaw.
[UK]Morpeth Herald 1 Dec. 3/4: ‘Hush, hush, hinney,’ said the prisoner [...] ‘don’t cook my goose’.
[UK] ‘Canny Newcassel’ Laughing Songster 107: Ah hinnies, out cum the King while we were there.
[UK]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.
[UK]Berwicks. News 1 June 8/2: [headline] ‘A Bit of Yer Pie, Hinny’.
[UK]Sun. Post 10 May 9/2: ‘Hullo, Hen,’ he said.
[UK]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’.
[UK]B. McGhee Cut and Run (1963) 66: ‘Sure I like ye, hen,’ I gasped. ‘Ah think you’re a smashin’ burd.’.
[UK]I. Rankin Strip Jack 153: Sheena, hen, get on to tadger-breath in Liverpool and tell him tomorrow morning definite.
[UK]I. Welsh Filth 87: Make it easy on yourself hen.
[UK]I. Rankin Set in Darkness 172: The street people knew her now, called her ‘doll’ and ‘hen’.
[UK]I. Welsh Decent Ride 46: Ah must huv been dreamin aboot ye, hen.

6. (US campus) a female student.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words & Phrases’ in DN II:i 40: hen, n. A woman student. General at co-educational institutions.

7. (S.Afr./W.I., Tob., also hennie) a male homosexual.

[SA]B. Simon ‘Outers’ Born in the RSA (1997) 45: bles: Hey! My brother, you know what’s a rabbit? charmaine: What? Ou Hennie.

8. (Aus.) wine.

[Aus] (ref. to 1920s–30s) Hepworth & Hindle 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.

[US]C. McKay 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.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 144: Synonyms for chickenhead are [...] hen, thunder chicken, nail head and short nails.

In derivatives

In compounds

hen and chickens (n.) (also hens and chickens)

1. large and small pewter pots.

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew 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’.
[UK]Sl. Dict.

2. (US gambling) large or small stakes.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Hens and chickens, willing to gamble for either big or small stakes.
hen college (n.)

(US) a women’s college.

[US]S. Lewis Babbitt 18: Oh, ain’t we select since we went to that hen college!
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 191: hen college (a women’s college).
hen-coop (n.) (also hen-roost)

1. a brothel.

[Ire]‘A Real Paddy’ 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.
[Aus](con. 1940s) T.A.G. Hungerford Sowers of the Wind 203: There’s a do on up at the Hen-coop.

2. (US campus, also hennery) a women’s dormitory.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 40: hen-coop, n. Dormitory for women students [...] hen-roost, n. The dormitory for women.
[US]J.W. Carr ‘Words from Northwest Arkansas’ in DN III:ii 140: hen-coop, hen-house, hennery, n. Young women’s dormitory. ‘The hen-coop’s just full up with girls.’.

3. (US) a beauty parlour.

[US]Edwardsville Intelligencer (IL) 14 Sept. 4/4: The Flappers’ Dictionary [...] Hen coop: A beauty parlor.
hen fight (n.) (also henfighting)

a fight between two (occas. more) women.

[US]C. Himes Pinktoes (1989) 177: Big Burley was not one to be cheated out of his glory by a hen fight.
[Can]M. Atwood Cat’s Eye (1989) 354: There’s something titillating about it [...] Henfighting, it’s called.
hen house (n.)

see separate entry.

hen hussy (n.) [dial. hen hussy, a woman who looks after the poultry]

(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.

[NZ]Tuapeka Times (Otago) 24 Sept. 6/7: [headline] Men who Hen-Hussy about the Kitchen.
[US]DN 1.74: Hen-hussy [...] a man who concerns himself overmuch with household matters or housekeeping [DARE].
[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. of Sl. 405/2: Effeminate man...hen-hussy [DARE].
hen mill (n.)

(US Und.) a women’s prison.

[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 128: Next month you’re doing twenty to life in the hen mill.
hen party (n.) (also hen night, hen picnic)

a women-only get-together; thus hen, an attendee.

[UK] ‘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.’.
[UK]W. Westall 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.
[Aus]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.
[US]E. Ferber ‘Un Morso doo Pang’ in One Basket (1947) 75: ‘Some hen party!’ they all said.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 21 Jan. 2/4: As useless as mistletoe at a hen party.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 680: Regular hen party there, he thought.
[US]‘Hy Lit’ Hy Lit’s Unbelievable Dict. of Hip Words 49: hen party – A lot of girls gossiping.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 191: hen party (a get-together of them).
[UK]K. Sampson Awaydays 84: Laden Christmas shoppers bustling off home and flushed Hen Night crews already starting to come out for the night.
[UK]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.
[UK]H. Mantel 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.
hen skin (n.)

(US) a cowboy’s blanket or underwear, usu. filled with feathers.

[US]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.
[US]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.
[US]P.A. Rollins Gone Haywire 62: If, as sometimes, the soogan was stuffed with feathers, it was termed a hen-skin [DA].
[US]C. Price Trails I Rode 49: I didn’t have much of a bed, just a few hen-skins and an old sougan [DA].

In phrases

hen of the game (n.) [game n. (1a)]

a prostitute.

[UK]Fletcher Chances IV iii: What should our Hen o’th’ Game else Do here without her?
[UK]H. Glapthorne Hollander IV i: There are knights in towne who know their Ladies to be Hens oth’ game, and live by tredding.
[UK]Head 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.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 54: [as cit. 1665].
[UK]Farmer Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 253: Tireuse, f. A woman expert in venery; ‘a hen of the game’.
hen of the walk (n.)

a stalwart working-class woman.

[UK]R. Whiteing 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.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

hen fruit (n.) (also fruit of the hen)

(US) chicken’s eggs, either raw or cooked; cit. 1898 is fig.: the ref. is to a ‘good egg’.

[US]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’.
[US]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.
[US]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.
[US] ‘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 .
[UK]Binstead & Wells 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.
[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 40: hen-fruit, n. Eggs.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 4 Aug. 3s/5: His intention [was] to show what can be done in the way of hen-fruit production.
[US]W.M. Raine Wyoming (1908) 105: ‘Hen fruit, sunny side up,’ shouted Reddy.
[Aus]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.
[US]J. London 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!
[US] in A.E. Kauffman Lost Squadron 68: Kindly check all cabbages, Irish confetti, and decayed henfruit at the door.
[UK] C. Sommers 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.
[US]Mohave County Miner (AZ) 30 Sept. 7/3: Dr C.C. Telleson is a great lover of fresh hen fruit.
[US]Buckner ‘Ranch Diction of the Texas Panhandle’ in AS VIII:1 27: henfruit. Eggs, almost unobtainable luxuries.
[US]N. Page ‘Secret Guns’ in Thrilling Western May [Internet] ‘Pig strip and hen fruit,’ Crittenden ordered.
[US]Green & Laurie 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.
[US]G. Swarthout Melodeon 4: I gathered, washed, and crated hen fruit till I couldn’t face it boiled, fried, or scrambled.
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 123: Hen fruit/cackleberries are eggs.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 56/1: hen fruit hen’s eggs.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].
[UK]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?
hen-headed (adj.) (also hen-witted) [characteristics of the barnyard fowl]

(US) stupid, foolish, scatter-brained.

[Ire]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.
[UK]Belfast News Ltr 24 Oct. 7/8: They might just as well be fowls! For indeed, is the mother quite hen-headed.
[UK]Pall Mall Gaz. 5 June 2/3: It is a pity that such hen-headed folly should receive the least encouragement.
[UK]Aberdeen Jrnl 24 Nov. 5/4: Mr Asquith and his friends seem to have grown hen-headed in the clamour and turmoil.
[UK]H.G. Wells Hist. of Mr Polly (1946) 71: ‘Hen-witted gigglers,’ said Mr. Polly.
[UK]E. Pugh City Of The World 264: No time to be hen-witted when you’re looking down the muzzle of a barker.
[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 578: hen-headed, adj. Brainless. ‘That hen-headed cuss can’t do anything you tell him.’.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 11 Jan. 4/5: The hen-headed woman who sets herself up as socially superior to her sister of lesser means.
[UK]‘George Orwell’ Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1962) 70: Half of them were those hen-witted middle-aged women.
hen track(s) (n.)

see separate entries.

In phrases