From Middle English hayfare, hayfre, heyfer, from Old English heahfore, hēahfre, compound of (1) *heag- (mating) (compare dialectal German Hagen, Hegel (breeding bull), Middle Dutch haechdroese (genitals), Old English hagan (id.)), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱak- (to be able, help) (compare Sanskrit शक्नोति (śaknóti, to be able), Avestan 𐬯𐬀𐬐-(sak-, to agree)) and (2) -fore (compare English elver, fieldfare, Old English sceolfor (cormorant)).[1]


  • IPA(key): /ˈhɛfə(ɹ)/, /ˈhɛfɚ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛfə(ɹ)


heifer (plural heifers)

  1. A young female cow, (particularly) one over one year old but which has not calved.
  2. (obsolete) A wife.
  3. (informal, derogatory, obsolete) A girl or young woman.
    • 1853, T.C. Haliburton, Sam Slick's Wise Saws, Vol. II., p. 282:
      I have half a mind to marry that heifer, tho' wives are bothersome critters when you have too many of them.
    • 1934, James T. Farrell, The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, Ch. 20:
      Sally, a buxom human heifer, leaned forward over the cashier's counter, and handed Dapper Dan O'Doul the autographed picture of Ramon Novarro, which she had procured by sending money and stamps. Her blue energetic eyes flashed, and she continued leaning forward with the front of her dress sagging, permitting Dapper Dan to get an eyeful.
  4. (informal, derogatory) A cow: a large, unattractive, unpleasant woman.
    • 2001, Glenda Howard, Cita's World
      My hand was aching to slap that silly heifer. I told her to take her trifling ass down to Burger King and get herself a job flipping burgers...

Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ Anatoly Liberman, An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction, s.v. “heifer” (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2008), 101-5.