Where does the term come from, where in the world is the term used?

I came across the usage in this article, with this paragraph as quoted:

Keara O'Neil was on a shopping trip to find bridesmaid dresses for her wedding and a frock for her hens night at the GASP Chapel St store on September 24 when she had a dispute with a sales assistant named "Chris".

So now that I've been sufficiently reminded to use Wiktionary and the like, I see that the reference is rather old to meaning "a women's party" and pretty much to mean the sort of thing where gossiping is expected to be a large part of the event. What I'm curious about now is:

Since I don't hear this a lot in the US in the South, where is this phrase used? How popular is it? Is it considered antiquated? Hyperbole?

  • 1
  • 2
    Etymonline lists hen as a term for women originating in the 1620s and "hen party" 1887; hen night in Wiktionary is also listed as synonymous with bachelorette party, but specific to UK/Australian English. Is there something more specific you're still wondering about after looking in the dictionary? – aedia λ Oct 1 '11 at 22:41
  • I didn't think of trying wiktionary or a similar reference directly, a google search did not bring up anything besides sales ads right away. – jcolebrand Oct 1 '11 at 23:00
  • The male equivalent is a 'stag party'. A drunken party for both sexes, before a wedding, is sometimes jokingly called a 'hag party' (combination of 'hen' and 'stag'). – A E Nov 21 '14 at 9:29

A hen party or hen night specifically refers (in the UK) to what is called a "bachelorette party" in the US - there will be drinking, possibly a stripper, certainly some raucous laughter and dirty jokes. I wouldn't expect it to mean any random party featuring lots of women, nor any of the specialized women-only parties like a baby shower or wedding shower. This image search should give you a rough idea what's involved. The big L thing is the symbol that normally goes on a car for a learner driver, and implies the bride-to-be is a "learner" who is about to start having sex. I know that doesn't make much sense, but it's tradition.

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    The term is definitely in common use in Australia, and the male version is a buck's or stag night. – Cam Jackson Oct 4 '11 at 3:27

When I was in England in 1973 I used to hear this expression a " hen night"

or hen evening " for an evening out with women only.

In french it would be "une soirée filles"

| improve this answer | |

think "hens" usually is referring to a gossipy woman, usually a married housewife with not a lot to do etc.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Supporting your answer with sources makes it stronger and more likely to be viewed as correct. Otherwise, it's likely to be viewed as only opinion (which is worth less on this Q&A site). The site tour and the help center will give you guidance on how to use this site. – anongoodnurse Dec 20 '14 at 5:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.