Green’s Dictionary of Slang

chickenshit adj.

[chickenshit n.]
(orig. US)

1. (also chicken crap, chickshit) insufficient, inadequate, of poor quality.

[US]E. Hemingway letter 5 May in Baker Sel. Letters (1981) 467: The retreat from Mons [Belgium] was chickenshit alongside of this last show.
[US] in Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore (1992) I 564: Her lips are as pink as a rooster’s dink, / The hair on her pussy is brown, / Her tits hang loose like the balls on a goose, / She’s the belle of a chicken-shit town.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 146: Chicken crap, huh, a little straight.
[US](con. 1920s–30s) J.O. Killens Youngblood (1956) 205: I believe you turning into a chickenshit nigger lover.
[US]H. Rhodes Chosen Few (1966) 100: Is this Simms th’ only chickenshit officer here or are all of them that way?
[US]G.V. Higgins Digger’s Game (1981) 29: That chickenshit thing I had going up there in Lynn.
[US]S. King Stand (1990) 176: Chickshit bastard, ain’t he?
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 22: I wouldn’t even bother to handle your chickenshit bets if I didn’t like you.
[US]C. Hiaasen Stormy Weather 275: Snapper pleaded out to a chickenshit manslaughter.
[US]P. Cornwell Last Precinct 43: They can fire me. Or [...] bury me in some chicken-shit department like audio-visual.

2. cowardly, fearful.

[US]E. Hemingway in Baker Sel. Letters c.4–11 Feb. (1981) 501: I am a very chickenshit military man.
[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 7: What’s the matter? You going chickenshit?
[US]Kerouac letter 24 June in Charters II (1999) 46: I wouldnt be surprised if Viking Press got chickenshit about HOWL being banned and put off the publication of my book.
[US]M. Rumaker Exit 3 and Other Stories 58: Them goddamn Mex’s is all chicken shit.
[US]A. Maupin Tales of the City (1984) 262: You think I’m chickenshit, don’t you?
[US]S. King It (1987) 677: You honky chickenshit bastard!
[US]K. Anderson Night Dogs 127: ‘[Y]ou know how chickenshit the DA’s office is getting about search warrants’.
[US](con. 1975–6) E. Little Steel Toes 147: He tried to get me busted. That’s not part of the game, it’s chickenshit.
[Aus]G. Gilmore Headland [ebook] Everyone was too chicken-shit to break out for the night.
[US]T. Pluck Bad Boy Boogie [ebook] ‘[Y]ou were too greedy or chickenshit to put Joey Bello in a cage’.
[US]J. Hannaham Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit 85: Am I just too chickenshit to handle that much cash? Yes. No. Where'd all this stupid pride come from?

3. (also chicken poo-poo) weak.

[US] in T. Shibutani Derelicts of Company K (1978) 252: Chicken shit bastard!
[US]J. Jones From Here to Eternity (1998) 194: You’ll get lots of lip, but don’t argue. Be chickenshit. Bring it to me.
[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 89: Any independent making a pitch for Angel membership would be rejected as ‘corny and chickenshit’ if he showed up in leather.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 30: I seriously mulled the odds that Phil would test out as a chicken-poo poo amnesiac.
[US]M. Baker Nam (1982) 191: This chickenshit staff sergeant [...] making us pick up cigarette butts.
[US]F.X. Toole Rope Burns 231: I’ma send you a hell the way I send you little chickenshit Olympic.

4. petty.

[US]J. Blake ‘Day of the Alligator’ in Algren Lonesome Monsters (1963) 133: On a chicken-shit job like this he lets me horse around.
[US]J. Crumley One to Count Cadence (1987) 159: Here we go again, around the chickenshitberry bush.
[US]J. Sayles Union Dues (1978) 383: He [...] lost a good bust in court on a chickenshit technicality.
[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 108: That’s real chickenshit, Simpson.
[US](con. 1969) N.L. Russell Suicide Charlie 50: He was an E-7 with twenty-six years in service who’d been busted in rank stateside more than once for chickenshit infractions.