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lame duck

an elected official or group of officials, as a legislator, continuing in office during the period between an election defeat and a successor's assumption of office.
a president who is completing a term of office and chooses not to run or is ineligible to run for reelection.
a person finishing a term of employment after a replacement has been chosen.
anything soon to be supplanted by another that is more efficient, economical, etc.
a person or thing that is disabled, helpless, ineffective, or inefficient.
a person who has lost a great deal of money in speculations on the stock market.
Origin of lame duck
First recorded in 1755-65
Related forms
lame-duck, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for lame duck
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • My sisters could no more do what you do than a lame duck can lead a ballet.

    The Forester's Daughter Hamlin Garland
  • For that matter, there isnt one of us that hasnt a lame duck of some sort.

    The Last of the Flatboats George Cary Eggleston
  • They have been through the furnace of affliction—even that lame duck.

    Averil Rosa Nouchette Carey
  • I guess, after all, he's only a 'lame duck,' like a good many of the rest of them.

    The Real Man Francis Lynde
  • He'll have to take a lame duck or go out of his circle for a wife.

    The Streets of Ascalon Robert W. Chambers
British Dictionary definitions for lame duck

lame duck

a person or thing that is disabled or ineffectual
(stock exchange) a speculator who cannot discharge his liabilities
a company with a large workforce and high prestige that is unable to meet foreign competition without government support
  1. an elected official or body of officials remaining in office in the interval between the election and inauguration of a successor
  2. (as modifier): a lame-duck president
(modifier) (US) designating a term of office after which the officeholder will not run for re-election
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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Word Origin and History for lame duck

1761, "any disabled person or thing;" especially Stock Exchange slang for "defaulter."

A lame duck is a man who cannot pay his differences, and is said to waddle off. [Thomas Love Peacock, "Gryll Grange," 1861]
Sometimes also in naval use for "an old, slow ship." Modern sense of "public official serving out term after an election" is recorded by 1878 in American English, from an anecdote published in that year of President Lincoln, who is alleged to have said, "[A] senator or representative out of business is a sort of lame duck. He has to be provided for."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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lame duck in Culture

lame duck definition

A public official or administration serving out a term in office after having been defeated for reelection or when not seeking reelection.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for lame duck

lame duck


: lame-duck president

noun phrase

  1. A public official who has lost an election or one who is not permitted by law to seek reelection for an additional term but is serving out a term (1863+)
  2. A speculator who has taken options on stocks he or she cannot pay for (1751+ Stock market)

[political sense attributed to Vice President Andrew Johnson, referring to a Colonel Forney]

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 lame duck

lame duck

An elected officeholder whose term of office has not yet expired but who has failed to be re-elected and therefore cannot garner much political support for initiatives. For example, You can't expect a lame duck President to get much accomplished; he's only got a month left in office. This expression originated in the 1700s and then meant a stockbroker who did not meet his debts. It was transferred to officeholders in the 1860s. The Lame Duck Amendment, 20th to the U.S. Constitution, calls for Congress and each new President to take office in January instead of March (as before), thereby eliminating the lame-duck session of Congress.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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