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dead duck

a person or thing that is beyond help, redemption, or hope:
One more missed opportunity and this whole enterprise is a dead duck.
Origin of dead duck
An Americanism dating back to 1820-30; orig., in political slang, a person who has lost influence or power and is therefore useless; perhaps from the proverb “never waste powder on a dead duck” Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for dead duck
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I have occasionally found a dead duck beneath the ice or floating in the water of a salt-hole.

    Wild Life Near Home Dallas Lore Sharp
  • We wasted an hour and a quarter over that dead duck down under, and now I'm expected to go rubbin' my back all round the Pole.

    With The Night Mail Rudyard Kipling
  • You'd sure be a dead duck long before we crossed the border, my boy!

  • If a Heinkel or an Me 110 showed up, the old girl would be a dead duck.

    A Yankee Flier in Italy Rutherford G. Montgomery
  • The little man got a long stick, and, reaching it out, drew the dead duck to the bank.

    Mother Goose in Prose

    L. Frank Baum
  • We wasted half an hour fussing over that dead duck down under, and now I'm expected to go rubbin' my back all round the Pole.

    Actions and Reactions Rudyard Kipling
  • I glided forward, and came near shooting the Quartermaster, who sat in a bunch of sedge-grass, with a dead duck by his side.

    Crooked Trails Frederic Remington
  • Yet here he was locked up in their tin-can of a jail, as good as a dead duck.

British Dictionary definitions for dead duck

dead duck

(slang) a person or thing doomed to death, failure, etc, esp because of a mistake or misjudgment
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Slang definitions & phrases for dead duck

dead duck

noun phrase

A person or thing that is ruined; a GONER, gone goose: Just one more little push and she was a dead duck/ Unless somebody would start this mob to the sugar bowl, I was a dead pigeon (1844+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with dead duck

dead duck

A person doomed to failure or death; a hopeless case. For example, If they can't find a heart to transplant soon, he's a dead duck. [ 1940s ]
A useless, worthless, or outmoded person or thing. For example, They didn't interview the outgoing senator; to the press he's a dead duck. Some speculate that this slangy term comes from an old saying, “Never waste powder on a dead duck,” first recorded in 1829.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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