hen O.E. henn, from W.Gmc. *khannjo (Cf. O.Fris. henn, M.Du. henne, O.H.G. henna), fem. of *han(e)ni "male fowl, cock" (Cf. O.E. hana "cock"), lit. "bird who sings (for sunrise)," from PIE root *kan- "to sing" (see CHANT (Cf. chant)). The original masculine word survives in German (Hahn "cock"), Swedish, Danish, etc.; extension to "female of any bird species" is early 14c. in English. Hen as slang for "woman" dates from 1620s; hence hen party "gathering of women," first recorded 1887. To be mad as a wet hen is from 1823, but the figure was used to indicate other states:
Some, on the contrary, are viciously opposite to these, who act so tamely and so coldly, that when they ought to be angry, to thunder and lighten, as one may say, they are no fuller of Heat, than a wet Hen, as the Saying is; .... ["Life of Mr. Thomas Betterton," London, 1710]
Orth. Out upon you for a dastardly Fellow; you han't the Courage of a wet Hen. ["A Sermon Preached at St. Mary-le-Bow, March 27, 1704"]
As wanton as a wet hen is in "Scots Proverbs" (1813). Among Middle English proverbial expressions was nice as a nonne hen “over-refined, fastidiously wanton” (c.1500); to singen so hen in snowe “sing miserably,” lit. “sing like a hen in snow” (c.1200). Hen's teeth as a figure of scarceness is attested by 1838.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • Hen — Hen, n. [AS. henn, hen, h[ae]n; akin to D. hen, OHG. henna, G. henne, Icel. h?na, Dan. h[ o]na; the fem. corresponding to AS. hana cock, D. haan, OHG. hano, G. hahn, Icel. hani, Dan. & Sw. hane. Prob. akin to L. canere to sing, and orig. meaning …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hen — may refer to: *Hen (bird), a female bird, a female of any member of the bird family, including species of poultry, duck, fowl, ostrich or emu. *Hen, specifically a female adult chicken *Hen, a female octopus or lobster *Hen (slang), a woman *Hen …   Wikipedia

  • hen — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 8}}przysł. {{/stl 8}}{{stl 7}} wyraz o zabarwieniu emocjonalnym, czasem powtórzony, zwykle wzmacniający znaczenie innego określenia przestrzennego użytego w zdaniu, oznaczający znaczne oddalenie tego, o czym mowa, od jakiegoś… …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • hen — adv.; hen ad el. henad aften (jf. henad); hen imod el. henimod de tres (jf. henimod); hen ved el. henved klokken fem (jf. henved); hen under el. henunder aften (jf. henunder); siden hen el. sidenhen …   Dansk ordbog

  • Hen — 変 Type seinen Genre romance Manga : Strange Auteur Hiroya Oku Éditeur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • hen ad — hen ad; gå hen ad el. henad vejen; hen ad el. henad aften (jf. § 19. Skrivemåden uafhængig af udtalen.1.a) …   Dansk ordbog

  • hen — [ hen ] noun count 1. ) a female chicken 2. ) often before noun the female of any type of bird: a hen pheasant …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • hen — ► NOUN 1) a female bird, especially of a domestic fowl. 2) (hens) domestic fowls of either sex. ● as rare (or scarce) as hen s teeth Cf. ↑as scarce as hen s teeth ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • Hen — (griech ἓν), eins; hen kai pān (ἓν ϰαὶ πᾶν) eins und alles …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Hen- — [griech. hén = einer]: Zahlwort mit der Bed. »eins« in zusammengesetzten Zahlwortstämmen, z. B. Henicos , Hentriacont (Ausnahme: C11; ↑ Undec ) …   Universal-Lexikon

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