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Why are women called chicks? Is there a negative connotation, I do assume there are sexist undertones there. Any idea about the etymology or origin of the term?

Is it derived, in anyway, from 'chic' meaning elegantly and stylishly fashionable?

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    Probably not a duplicate but there may be some etymology: english.stackexchange.com/q/19098/9001
    – Hugo
    Dec 18, 2013 at 8:38
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    Everything has been already documented and available online. Etymonline: As slang for "young woman" it is first recorded 1927 (in "Elmer Gantry"), supposedly from U.S. black slang. In British use in this sense by c.1940; popularized by Beatniks late 1950s.
    – Kris
    Dec 18, 2013 at 8:44
  • Related and FumbleFingers provides a similar answer as Hugo's Why can a bird be pulled but never caught
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 18, 2013 at 10:15
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    I have always wondered whether it is related by transference to Spanish "chica" (girl). Dec 18, 2013 at 16:58
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    What, All my pretty Chickens, and their Damme, At one fell swoope? - Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 3 - Shakespeare. Mar 10, 2014 at 13:40

3 Answers 3

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The etymology and origin of the term has been answered by Hugo so I will limit myself to answering the first two questions.

Why are women called chicks? Is there a negative connotation...

Chick is considered by many women a derogatory term. Why is that? Probably because its primary meaning is that of young bird especially of domestic fowl, more commonly a baby chicken, if you will.

But wait a minute, chicks are pretty fluffy yellow things, they symbolize spring, re-birth, and they are adorably cute too, so the term should be seen a compliment. It might be until we realize that the idiom, "bird brained" refers to a person regarded as silly or stupid. And chickens are famously recognized as being stupid animals. Therefore, chick can describe a pretty (and usually) very young female, but it also implies that the woman is vacuous and empty-headed.

Overall, chick, I would argue carries more negative connotations than positive ones.

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    I don't know if it's valid to equate chick with bird-brained just because they're both avian analogies. You might as well equate it with hawk (meaning a warmonger) and claim that chick describes a young female and implies that the woman has war-like tendencies.
    – tobyink
    Mar 5, 2014 at 22:53
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    @tobyink it certainly isn't used to compliment a woman on her intelligence, and thought provoking observations. I also talked about chickens and it's the general consensus that chickens are not the brightest of creatures.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 5, 2014 at 23:01
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    Any animal that evolved from dinosaurs automatically gains my respect.
    – tobyink
    Mar 5, 2014 at 23:02
  • A baby hawk is more specifically an eyas or eyass. A chick is a superset term, yes, but is more commonly known to mean baby chicken. Oct 4, 2016 at 22:57
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    I feel like more of the negative connotations of the word come from the sexist ways in which it has been used, and the sexist associations it has, than anything to do with the etymology.
    – KRyan
    Apr 10, 2017 at 23:41
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This is the OED's sense 3b:

A girl; a young woman. slang (orig. U.S.)

First recorded in 1927:

1927 S. Lewis Elmer Gantry vii. 114 He didn't want to marry this brainless little fluffy chick.

Sense 3a is:

Applied to human offspring; = chicken n.1 2; esp. in alliteration with child. Sometimes as a term of endearment (see quot. a1616).

First used around 1320:

c1320 Seuyn Sag. (W.) 2159 He is the fendes chike.

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  • In this instance it's hard to search for pre-1927 antedatings when an earlier sense goes back to c1320! (But compare my grand slam answer, much easier to search and I've antedated three of the four senses.)
    – Hugo
    Dec 18, 2013 at 12:17
  • I think it is probably a much older term than the 1920s. The first-century sidewalks of the streets of Ephesus have incised pictographs of doves (pigeons) with arrows pointing to the brothel.
    – Theresa
    Sep 2, 2018 at 2:53
  • I doubt they spoke English in first-century Ephesus :)
    – Hugo
    Sep 3, 2018 at 8:42
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In Spanish "chica" means young woman.

I do not think of chick as derogatory. It's got a toughness to it. Someone who's fierce, chic, cool. It's not something men call women but something women call each other affectionately.

"Hey, chick, ready to try a different club?"

Women call their friends chick just as they call them chica.

My friends and I all call each other: chick, chica, woman, mujer.

"Hey chica!" "Hey woman!"

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  • Yes, "chica" is the Spanish word for young girl, but I don't think it has anything to do with "chick", even though they sound similar, since "chica" is just the female form of "chico", which originally just meant "small" (although it's mostly used to designate a young boy nowadays, except some southern regions of Spain where is still means "small"). Also, I don't think "chick" has anything to do with "chic", even when they essentially sound the same, because "chic" comes from French (who got it from the German "schick"), and "chick" is actual English.
    – OMA
    Dec 28, 2020 at 11:57

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