Definition of hen in English:



  • 1A female bird, especially of a domestic fowl.

    • ‘Male and female birds are very similar, with the hens distinguished only by their brighter, pinkish-red irides.’
    • ‘Clare's free-range hens are lucky birds; for breakfast she feeds them organic porridge with apple and sultanas, and uses suncream when it gets hot.’
    • ‘Well before the cock is over the nest, the hen rises and approaches him from below, turns over almost upside down and catches the prey as he drops it.’
    • ‘He hid near nests of black woodpeckers, kingfishers, northern hazel hens and Eurasian sparrow hawks.’
    • ‘Breeding hens and young chicks eat a greater proportion of animal matter than the rest of the population.’
    • ‘In adults, the cock has a crimson crown while the hen's cap is dull white; the young of both sexes usually show touches of red on the crown.’
    • ‘The 5 bantam hens and one California white hen provide excellent grasshopper and slug control.’
    • ‘I couldn't believe how many types of hens there are and how tame they are.’
    • ‘Chickens raised for meat are dumped into sheds housing thousands of birds, while hens raised for their eggs are stuffed into cages and after they churn out hundreds of eggs, they, too, are slaughtered.’
    • ‘If you have - as I do - a yard full of hens and roosters, you learn quickly how emotional these birds are.’
    • ‘International cuisine uses the eggs of other birds, including ducks, geese, sparrows, quails and ostriches, but it is the hen that has been universally domesticated.’
    • ‘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 hen usually lays two eggs, which she incubates for about 24 days until they hatch.’
    • ‘Displaying to the hen, the flame and gold crest features of the male are fully exposed.’
    • ‘In early spring the turkey hen began to lay and when she had 12-15 eggs laid around St. Patrick's Day they began to hatch.’
    • ‘My mother kept chickens until all four hens and the three cockerels were stolen just over two weeks ago by the local kids.’
    • ‘The female red junglefowl is leaner than tame hens.’
    • ‘They're sort of like cardinals - the males are all scarlet and beautiful, and the females are little brown hens.’
    • ‘Usually the hen bird would fly off and work her way through the undergrowth in rather a flurry as one approached the nest, so this usually served as a warning to tread carefully.’
    • ‘Certified organic poultry - including laying hens, broilers, and turkeys - showed even higher rates of growth during this period.’
    1. 1.1Domestic fowls of either sex.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The only things living were a sow, her piglets, and some hens scratching in the dirt.’
      • ‘Now the European Union is in the process of overhauling many practices involving farm animals like hens, calves and pigs.’
      • ‘Children will also delight in the baby piglets, kittens, ducks, and hens that roam free.’
      • ‘Male hens which are hatched are usually killed the instant they are born as they are of no use whatsoever to the battery farm industry.’
    2. 1.2Used in names of birds, especially waterbirds of the rail family, e.g. moorhen, native hen.
      • ‘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.’
    3. 1.3British A woman who is about to get married and is attending a celebration with female friends and relatives.
      ‘today's naughty hens don't want to share the stories with their other halves’
    4. 1.4Scottish Used as an affectionate term of address to a girl or woman.
      ‘and I really like you too, hen’
      • ‘Well ah'm sorry if ah upset ye but it's too late noo, hen.’
      • ‘It was one of those lofty dreams I had, so now I cannae believe I'm here, 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.’
      • ‘One creaky old man shouted in frustration, ‘I just cannae understand ya, hen!’’
  • 2A female lobster, crab, or salmon.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’


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