Hens and chickens
There are a number of words in English for the domesticated fowl Gallus gallus domesticus:
- Chicken – general word for the birds and their meat
- Cock / Rooster – adult male
- Cockerel – adult male under a year old
- Hen -adult female
- Pullet – young female
- Chook – general word for the birds used in Australia, New Zealand and some varieties of British English
- Broiler – a type of chicken raised specifically for meat production
Chicken originally referred only to the chicks of this species, and the general term for them was domestic fowl or fowl. It comes from the Old English word cicen (also written cycen and ciecen) and is probably a diminutive of cocc.
Cock comes from the Old English cocc (male bird) and is thought to be an imitation of the sounds made by birds.
Rooster is derived from to roost, from the Old English hróst (perch / roost), and was originally roost cock in the 17th century but lost the second half of the phrase thanks to Puritan influence.
Hen comes from the Old English henn, which can be traced back to the PIE root *kan (to sing), via the West Germanic *khannjo, the feminine form of *khan(e)ni (male fowl, cock – lit. “bird who sings for sunrise”). In Old English hana was cock/rooster.
Pullet comes from the Latin pullus (a young animal or bird) via the Old French poulette (chicken), a diminutive poule (hen), and the Anglo-Norman pullet (chick / young bird).
Cockerel is just a diminutive of cock.
Chook probably comes from the British dialect words chuck or chucky (chicken) and is imitative of the sound made by chickens.
Broiler comes from the Old French bruller (to broil, roast).