What Does No Spring Chicken Mean?

No Spring Chicken Meaning

Definition: No longer young.

Origin of No Spring Chicken

This expression is a euphemism for calling someone old. Specifically, people mean that they are past the prime of their young adult years, rather than their childhood.

It is possible to use spring chicken in place of young people in a positive sentence, such as These spring chickens have so much energy. However, people use the negative version, with no preceding spring chicken, almost exclusively.

It comes from the literal meaning of the farm animal. Spring is the typical season for chicks to hatch. They grow big enough for slaughter by around 3 months. If the farmer waits too long, until the chick is too old, then the slaughtered chicken will taste too tough. A chicken slaughtered at a young age tastes tender.

Restaurants, therefore, sometimes advertise that their chickens are spring chickens, meaning they have been harvested at the perfect time.

what does spring chicken meanPeople have used variations of this expression, all dealing with chickens, since at least the early-1700s.

An early use of the phrase can be found in Addison and Steele’s The Spectator from 1711:

  • You ought to consider you are now past a chicken; this Humour, which was well enough in a Girl, is insufferable in one of your Motherly Character.

In this example, it does not appear in the negative form.

Another early use is by Jonathan Swift in Stella’s Birthday from 1720:

  • Pursue your trade of scandal-picking, Your hints that Stella is no chicken.

Although it usually refers to women, it can refer to either gender.

Examples of No Spring Chicken

spring chicken meansIn this dialogue, two employees are discussing their boss.

Deanna: Cecilia is in the conference room screaming and throwing a temper tantrum right now.

Emily: I can’t believe she is acting so unprofessionally. She acts the same way as my young child, and Cecilia is no spring chicken!

Deanna: I know. She’s much too old for this behavior.

In the second example, two baseball players are discussing the difficulty one of them is having.

Billy: I need a break.

Angie: We just started playing. Come on! Keep playing. And try to run faster. You’ve been running slower and slower recently.

Billy: Well, what can I say? I’m getting older. I’m no spring chicken.

Angie: That’s true, but I think in this case you are just being lazy.

More Examples

This excerpt is about a scorned husband trying to insult his wife by calling her old, albeit indirectly.

  • Feeling rejected, he says some not-nice things about his wife to the camera (“Heather’s no spring chicken. They say men age like wine, women age like milk.”). Ouch. –New York Post

This excerpt is about an athlete who plays for the New York Knicks, a professional basketball team.

  • The cons: Crawford’s defense has never been stellar and the 35-year-old is no spring chicken. –New York Post

Summary

The phrase I’m no spring chicken means I’m no longer in the prime of my youth.

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