Chicken is often used to mean someone is a coward. This is exemplified in the game of chicken.

When did chicken first become a synonym of cowardice?

  • 3
    I know the rooster on the other hand has been a sign of valor. And chickens have been appreciated for a long time. Interesting question!
    – Tom Sol
    Apr 14 '19 at 13:07
  • 2
    During Arthurian times: 932 AD or thereabouts.
    – Spencer
    Apr 17 '19 at 21:52
  • 1
    @spencer Sir Robin from Monty python?
    – Tom Sol
    Apr 24 '19 at 5:23

According to this Quora answer on the exact same topic:

The primary uses, however, remain those that suggest weakness. Thus the early use to mean a girl or woman, which would become the more recent chick. Such chickens also suggest the 'cuteness' and 'fluffiness' of the creature.

The first example we have of chicken meaning a coward comes in 1600. It runs thus:

1600 W. Kemp Nine Days’ Wonder: It did him good to have ill words of a hoddy doddy! a hebber de hoy!, a chicken! a squib.

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