Green’s Dictionary of Slang

chicken-hearted adj.

also chick-hearted, hen-hearted
[SE chicken/chicken n. (2) + SE hearted]

cowardly.

[UK]Skelton Why Come Ye Nat to Courte? line 167: They kepe them in theyr holdes Lyke hen-herted cokoldes.
[UK]Skelton Colyn Cloute (1550) Bi: Now be it they are good men Moche herted lyke an hen.
[UK]T. Betterton Match in Newgate V iii: Was there ever such a chicken-hearted Son of a Whore?
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew.
[UK]New Canting Dict.
[UK]R. Bull Grobianus 130: Don’t trifle (like a Chicken-hearted Slave).
[UK]Richardson Clarissa VII 215: He’ll soon get the better of this chicken-hearted fellow, never fear.
[UK]Smollett Reprisal II iv: I grow quite chicken-hearted in his absence.
[UK]Smollett Sir Launcelot Greaves I 41: Crowe [...] damned him for a chicken-hearted lubber.
[Ire]K. O’Hara April-Day Act I: Our don’s a dolt, a vain chick-hearted bully.
[US]Freeman’s Jrnl (Phila., PA) 21 Aug. 1/2: The poor chicken-hearted creatures cryed out to the potent king of England to take them under his wings.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Sporting Mag. May XIV 112/2: Those chicken-hearted elves, / Who love in others what they’d fear themselves.
[UK]B.H. Malkin (trans.) Adventures of Gil Blas (1822) I 81: Never mind, Gil Blas, thought I, do not be chicken-hearted.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]W. Scott St Ronan’s Well (1833) 118: Mick you are right, and I am a scrupulous, chicken-hearted fool.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Heart of London III iii: This Wilton must not live to blab, or he’ll tell all to-morrow, the chicken-hearted fool!
[US]N. Ames Mariner’s Sketches 195: The Peruvian war brig [...] which these hen-hearted loons had taken for a pirate.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. II 45: What has made you so chicken-hearted all at once?
[UK]C. Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend II 81: How he trembles! Why, he must be chicken-hearted.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Good for Nothing (1890) 211: He’d been talking to me so chicken-hearted.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 286: It isn’t my fault, Mr. North [...] I didn’t know that the lad was chicken-hearted.
[UK]R.L. Stevenson Treasure Island 30: Small thanks to you big, hulking, chicken-hearted men.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 101: He were a chicken-hearted one with all his bluster when he weren’t posh motto [drunk].
[UK]D. Stewart Shadows of the Night in Illus. Police News 31 Aug. 12/2: ‘That idiot, that dunder-headed, chicken-hearted Snarley [...] damn him!’.
[US]‘Old Sleuth’ Dock Rats of N.Y. (2006) 51: I’m only telling yer the truth; yer a chicken-hearted lot, and losing all yer game; for what? the pretty face of a she-devil!
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 218: chicken-hearted, hen-hearted, cowardly. ‘Come on! don’t get chicken-hearted.’.
[US]F. Hurst ‘Boob Spelled Backward’ in Humoresque 244: That’s your trouble, Sam; you’re so chicken-hearted.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 153: It doesn’t do to be too chicken-hearted when you are a crook.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 3 Apr. [synd. col.] When chicken-hearted editors don’t hurt their own paper, they help a rival organ.
[US]C. Himes Real Cool Killers (1969) 50: Let ’em cut the black mother-raper’s throat [...] That chicken-hearted bastard ain’t no good to us.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 62: You dumb chicken-hearted bitch.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 286: Identifying myself with her in the way chicken-hearted biographers did with their subjects.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 79: Variations include chicken-hearted, chicken-livered, chicken-spirited, and hen-hearted.
[UK]C. Dexter Daughters of Cain (1995) 45: He handed across a postcard marking the relevant page of notes [...] including a chicken-hearted comment on Glubit.
[UK]Times (2) 30 Apr. 7: Chicken-hearted, craven, faceless cowards.

In derivatives

chicken-heartedness (n.)

cowardice.

W.C. Bennett ‘The Execution’ in Atlas 30 Nov. 762/2: Nor many a damn and many an oath, to roar were hundreds slow / ’Gainst him whose chickenheartedness stole from them half the show .
Boston Post (MA) 15 Dec. 24/4: There is a certain chicken-heartedness in Capricorn people that they lught to work out of themselves.
[US]Princeton Union (MN) 20 June 4/3: This is no time for chicken-heartedness.