Definition: Nagged and harassed by someone, usually a wife or girlfriend.
Origin of Henpecked
Because a hen is a female chicken, this idiom has specific gender connotations. Usually a man is henpecked by a woman.
This expression appeared in the 1600s and likely comes from the imagery of a hen pecking persistently at the ground in search of food.
The idea behind the idiom is that, just as a hen pecks constantly at the ground, a wife or girlfriend can nag at her significant other. Although each individual nag or complaint might be small, over time they add up and make the man intimidated or perpetually unhappy.
Because this idiom relies on a stereotype of women as nagging, and men as being unable to stand up for themselves, some people consider it to be insulting to both genders.
Examples of Henpecked
In the dialogue below, two men use the idiom while at the local pub.
Robert: Hey! You should come to my bachelor party this weekend. It will be a full night of debauchery and titillating entertainment!
Marty: Oh, well, that sounds fun. I wish I could join, but my wife would never go for it.
Robert: You can’t let your wife decide what you do in your spare time! When did you become so henpecked?
Marty: Well, to be honest, I was just trying to decline politely. I actually just have no interest in joining your celebration. Sorry.
The second dialogue shows two students who are talking about how one of them recently became engaged.
Josh: I’m so happy that Ashley and I are finally engaged. I can’t wait to be married to the love of my life.
Jeff: Just don’t let her nag you. I’ve seen too many men get henpecked by their wives.
Josh: I don’t need to worry about that. Ashley and I have a mutual respect for one another.
This excerpt is about what one reporter wants a fast food chain to do for promotions.
- Give us a 99-cent McMuffin promotion or a buy-one-get-one-free Happy Meal. Or just bring back those awesome glass tumblers from the 1970s, the ones that featured Grimace, Mayor McCheese and a Hamburglar who hadn’t yet been henpecked and Brooklynized. –New York Post
This excerpt is from an article about a man who got himself arrested.
- A henpecked husband in Brooklyn placed a series of 911 calls to report phony crimes in the hopes that police would haul away his nagging wife, but he was instead arrested, police sources said. –New York Post
The idiom henpecked is a rude adjective to describe someone (usually a man) who is perpetually bullied or nagged by another (usually a wife or girlfriend).