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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.

HEN, v., n.2

I. v., intr. 1. To withdraw from any undertaking or promise through cowardice, to retract, to “funk” (Lth. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 131; Gall. 1905 E.D.D. Suppl.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; em.Sc. (b)., Ayr., Kcb., Dmf., s.Sc. 1957). Also used tr. with on, and in passive to be henned. ¶Pa.t. with double ending hentit (Dmb. 1898 J. M. Slimmon Dead Planet 174; Dmf. 1957).Rxb. 1870 J. Thomson Doric Lays (1884) 9:
Jury courts to haud when some coward laddie henn'd.
Ayr. 1879 R. Adamson Lays 144:
We maunna, like the coward, hen An' frichtet flee.
Ags. 1896 A. Blair Rantin Robin 40:
I thocht ye'd clean henned when ye were sae slow to come.
Dmb. 1899 J. Strang Lass of Lennox 234:
“Ye're henned.” “Deil the fear o' me. . . . I'll tak' the wager.”
Gsw. 1904 H. Foulis Erchie xxii.:
“Man!” I says, “ye've henned — that's whit's wrang wi' ye: come in jist for the pant; naebody'll touch ye, and ye'll can come oot if it's sore.”
Sc. 1915 P. Macgillivray Pro Patria 7:
And the Gordon men, they didna “hen,” Though Death at their ribs did dirl.
Rxb. 1927 E. C. Smith Braid Haaick 12:
Hei hennd on ei's prenti'ship an listed for a sojer.

Hence adj. hennie, -y, timid, cowardly (Abd.30, Ags., m.Lth., Ayr. 1957).Gsw. 1909 J. J. Bell Oh! Christina! viii.:
Weel, I'll bet ye onything ye like. Come on, auntie! Ye're awfu' henny!
Mearns6 1953:
Afraid, cowardly, used mostly by children when taunting one to do a risky deed. “A! ye're hennie tae fecht!”

2. To dare a person to attempt some bold feat by taunting him with cowardice (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Agent n. henner.Edb. 1943 A. A. MacGregor Auld Reekie 61:
There was the game known as “henners,” a form of follow-my-leader, but different in that the leader “henned” or challenged one to follow him in exploits more daring than usual. . . . Dangling dangerously from slender branches for so many seconds counted aloud by the “henner.”

II. n. 1. A dare, a challenge to some feat of daring (Gall. 1956).Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.:
A'll gie ee a hen.

2. Phr.: tae lat in the hen, to lose heart, to give up, become discouraged (Ags.20 1956). Appar. a play on hen, the bird (see note below).

[Any connection with Hain is very doubtful. For the metaphor in hen, cf. Eng. chicken with sim. meanings.]

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"Hen v., n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 14 Aug 2022 <>



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