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I've learned the meaning of chicken out from the dictionary, I am curious about its etymology. If any body knows, please explain it to me.

I have done my part of research by Googling "etymology for chicken out meaning". However, I didn't get any helpful results.

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See etymonline.com/index.php?term=chicken –  Mitch Dec 25 '12 at 17:31
I'm actually not too fond of wordreference's definition. It's not so much a failure to do something as it is a decision to give up (based on fear or lack of conviction) either beforehand or in the middle of an attempt to do something. –  Jim Dec 25 '12 at 17:31

2 Answers 2

The OED says this verb chicken is slang of US origin with a first quotation from 1943 (I. Wolfert, Torpedo 8):

I just wanted to..make sure you weren't chickening out on me.

They say this is a revived form coming from a noun chicken for one who is as timorous or defenceless as a chicken, used at least as early as 1616, and cite Shakespeare (Cymbeline 1623):

Forthwith they flye Chickens, the way which they stopt Eagles.

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If you see a fight between two male chickens the loser will runaway with a low neck position is a sign of submission. Hence chickened out?

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Can you include a citation for this chicken action being the source of the expression, "chicken out"? –  Kristina Lopez Dec 19 '13 at 20:52

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