Madder Than a Wet Hen – Used To Express Extreme Anger

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Madder than a wet hen is an idiomatic expression that metaphorically explains how angry a person is. If someone is as mad as a wet hen, they are furious at a person or situation. 

Idioms, such as madder than a wet hen or madder than a wet hornet, are words or phrases used figuratively. They often work within a sentence to add detail or emphasis, as in this case, describing a great degree of anger.

Explore the meaning, origins, variations, and usage of madder than a wet hen in various contexts with examples in this comprehensive guide. Keep reading to uncover everything about this idiomatic expression.

Madder Than a Wet Hen – Used To Express Extreme Anger

What Does the Idiom Madder Than a Wet Hen Mean?

The idiom madder than a wet hen means extremely angry, enraged, or very exasperated.

According to, mad as a wet hen is used to indicate that someone is “very angry” or “furious.” The Free Dictionary states that it means “extremely or inconsolably angry.”

When someone is described as mad as a wet hen, it suggests they are not just angry but downright furious. This phrase implies a heightened emotional state where irrationality and deep frustration may be evident. It’s akin to being madder than a hornet, emphasizing the intensity of one’s anger.

Do Mad as Wet Hen and Mad as a Hatter Mean the Same?

No, mad as a wet hen and mad as a hatter do not mean the same thing. Mad as a hatter refers to someone mentally unstable or insane. 

Variations of the Idiom

Here are some variations of the idiom madder than a wet het or mad as a wet hen:

  • Madder than a hornet
  • Mad as a hornet
  • Furious as a bull
  • Hot under the collar
  • Seeing red
  • Mad as a soaked cat

How Is Madder Than a Wet Hen Commonly Used in Context?

The idiom madder than a wet hen serves as a colorful expression to convey intense anger or frustration. Commonly used in informal language, this idiom adds a touch of flair to conversations, allowing speakers to vividly express their emotions.

In the following sections, we will explore the different ways this idiom is employed, discover examples that showcase its usage, and provide tips for using it effectively in various contexts.

What Are the Different Ways to Use Madder Than a Wet Hen?

Here are a few different ways you can use this idiom:

  • Personal emotions: After waiting for hours, Lexa was madder than a wet hen when the appointment was canceled.
  • Describing others: When the project deadline was missed again, the boss was madder than a wet hen with the team.
  • Narrative enhancer: In the heat of the argument, Bellamy’s face turned red, and he yelled, madder than a wet hen.
  • Everyday conversation: I spilled coffee on her favorite book, and she got madder than a wet hen about it.

Where Can You Find Examples of Madder Than a Wet Hen?

Examples of the idiom madder than a wet hen can be found in various sources, including books, articles, and online platforms. Here are a few places where you can find examples:

  • Literature
  • Online idiom databases
  • Conversations and dialogue
  • Online language forums or discussion boards 

You can often find it used in personal accounts as recorded by these online journal sources:

“We went out to dinner and met [Roy], and he was mad as a wet hen because she had made a blind date and he hadn’t known anything about it until it was all done and over with,” said Panchelli. (The Union-Recorder)

“When it’s time to go, we might skedaddle after we say, “OK then, bye now,” if we want a kiss or a hug we may ask someone to gimme some suga or lemme hug your neck, and when we’re mad as a wet hen we might say durnit instead of a dreaded curse word that might embarrass our mamas.” (The Savannah Morning News)

What Are Some Tips for Using Madder Than a Wet Hen Effectively?

Remember, idioms are nuanced and may not always be suitable for every situation. Consider the appropriateness and impact of the idiom before using it.

  • Understand the meaning: Make sure you understand the literal and figurative meaning of the idiom. 
  • Consider the context: Consider the tone, setting, and intensity of the situation to determine if the idiom is suitable.
  • Use vivid language: Incorporate descriptive words and phrases to paint a clear picture of someone’s anger.
  • Be mindful of audience and formality: This informal idiom may be more appropriate in casual conversations, creative writing, or informal settings. Use it accordingly and adjust your language to suit the context.
  • Practice and observation: Pay attention to how native speakers use idioms in real-life conversations and written texts. 

What Is the Origin of the Idiom Madder Than a Wet Hen?

Madder Than a Wet Hen Ngram
Madder than a wet hen usage trend.

Mad as a wet hen was coined in the United States in the early half of the 1800s. There is a story that farmers used to dunk broody hens into a barrel of water in order to snap them out of their reverie, causing the hens to squawk and react negatively. 

However, a more plausible explanation traces the phrase back to the 1500s with the Middle English expression “nice as a nonne hen,” suggesting over-refinement. This was applied to women of loose morals at the time. 

By the early 19th century, the Scottish proverb “as wanton as a wet hen” clarified the meaning. The term hen had been slang for women since the 1600s, often used neutrally. However, its association with negative connotations dates back over 500 years. 

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

The use of the word hen to indicate a woman has changed slightly over the years to indicate a more literal use. A wet hen is no longer a woman of questionable values. Instead, it has been toned down to highlight the anger or frustration anyone might feel when surprised, disappointed, or disrupted. 

What Are Some Related Terms to Madder Than a Wet Hen?

To use the expression in a sentence, consider related terms that better define its use. 

Madder Than a Wet Hen – Used To Express Extreme Anger 1


  • Angry as a hornet
  • Enraged as a lion
  • Fuming mad
  • Livid with rage
  • Incensed to the core


  • Cool as a cucumber
  • Serene as a summer’s day
  • Collected and composed
  • Unperturbed and unruffled
  • Calm and collected
  • Peaceful and tranquil

Madder Than a Wet Hen: Test Your Knowledge!

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Let’s Review

The phrase mad as a wet hen is an expressive way to describe someone who is extremely angry or upset. The comparison to a wet hen’s agitation emphasizes the intensity and irrationality of their emotional state. By using this idiom, you can convey a strong sense of heightened anger or frustration and evoke a clear image of someone experiencing intense emotions.