Have you ever wondered what is the meaning of hen party? Why do we call it a hen party or hen do and what does it have to do with poultry?
In fact, it hasn’t got much to do with chickens at all, and the origins of the term hen party stem from something quite different.
Why is a hen called a hen?
The meaning of the term “Hen Party” stems from the fact that the word ‘hen’ hasn’t always meant female chicken, but rather way back in Middle English, a look at the etymology of the word ‘hen’ shows us that it used to be used to refer to the female of any bird, or sometimes the female gender of any species of animal.
Similarly, the word ‘stag’ was used to refer to the male of a species, and therefore it developed to become the word used to refer to a party exclusively for males, just as a hen party came to mean a party exclusively for females.
Is the bride the hen?
Basically, anyone who is attending a hen party is referred to as a hen, and the entire group is known as ‘the hens’ or ‘the hen party.’ The bride is essentially also a hen, but for clarity is often just referred to as ‘The Bride’ at the actual event.
Other names for a hen party
The terms used for hen and stag parties vary according to location, and there is wide variation even within the English-speaking world.
Take a look at these alternative words for hen and stag parties:
- Australia: Hen and Buck Party
- America: Bachelorette and Bachelor Party.
- South Africa: It is common to hold a party called “The Kitchen Tea”. This involves women gathering for a tea party just before the wedding where they bring gifts destined for the bride-to-be’s new kitchen.
- Canada: There is the “Stag and Doe” party which includes both men and women where the main aim is to help raise funds to pay for the couple’s wedding or honeymoon.
When did hen parties start?
Research indicates that the idea of a celebration or gathering before nuptials goes back much further into history than we might think. As expected, the concept of the stag party actually occurred first. We know that stag parties were likely taking place in Tudor times already, you can just imagine the kinds of ale-fuelled feasts they had.
Some sources suggest that the idea of a stag party actually originated even earlier during the 5th Century B.C with the Spartans being the first to celebrate a man’s last night of freedom.
Spartan soldiers are known to have held dinners where toasts would be made to the groom-to-be. No doubt there were fewer shots than there are nowadays, although perhaps strippers weren’t unheard of.
Hen parties arrived on the scene much later. Pre 19th Century, women might have had a bridal shower where they would hopefully be ‘showered’ with gifts (think more embroidered handkerchiefs than matching “Bride Tribe” bikinis) to prepare them for married life and to provide a dowry.
So there you have it, the history of the term ‘hen party’. Have you ever heard any other names for hen party? Share them with us in the comments below.