a. A common domesticated fowl (Gallus domesticus) widely raised for meat and eggs and believed to be descended from the jungle fowl G. gallus.
b. Any of various similar or related birds.
c. The flesh of the chicken, used as food.
2. Slang A coward.
3. Any of various foolhardy competitions in which the participants persist in a dangerous course of action until one loses nerve and stops.
4. Vulgar Slang A young gay male, especially as sought by an older man.
intr.v. chick·ened, chick·en·ing, chick·ens
To act in a cowardly manner; lose one's nerve: chickened out at the last moment.
[Middle English chiken, from Old English cīcen.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.