- any of numerous wild or domesticated web-footed swimming birds of the family Anatidae, especially of the genus Anas and allied genera, characterized by abroad, flat bill, short legs, and depressed body.
- the female of this bird, as distinguished from the male.Compare drake1.
- the flesh of this bird, eaten as food.
- Informal. person; individual: He's the queer old duck with the knee-length gaiters and walrus mustache.
- a playing marble, especially one that is not used as a shooter.
- ducks, (used with a singular verb) British Slang. ducky2.
- Cricket Slang.
- failure of a batsman to score: to be out for a duck.
- a player's score of zero: to be bowled for a duck.Compare goose egg.
- water off a duck's back, something that has little or no effect: Our criticisms of his talk rolled off him like water off a duck's back.
Origin of duck1
- any of various small aquatic birds of the family Anatidae, typically having short legs, webbed feet, and a broad blunt bill: order Anseriformes
- the flesh of this bird, used as food
- the female of such a bird, as opposed to the male (drake)
- any other bird of the family Anatidae, including geese, and swans
- Also: ducks British informal dear or darling: used as a term of endearment or of general addressSee also ducky
- informal a person, esp one regarded as odd or endearing
- cricket a score of nothing by a batsman
- like water off a duck's back informal without effect
- take to something like a duck to water informal to become adept at or attracted to something very quickly
- to move (the head or body) quickly downwards or away, esp so as to escape observation or evade a blow
- to submerge or plunge suddenly and often briefly under water
- (when intr, often foll by out) informal to dodge or escape (a person, duty, etc)
- (intr) bridge to play a low card when possessing a higher one rather than try to win a trick
- the act or an instance of ducking
- a heavy cotton fabric of plain weave, used for clothing, tents, etcSee also ducks
- an amphibious vehicle used in World War II
Word Origin and History for water off a duck's back
waterfowl, Old English duce (found only in genitive ducan) "a duck," literally "a ducker," presumed to be from Old English *ducan "to duck, dive" (see duck (v.)). Replaced Old English ened as the name for the bird, this being from PIE *aneti-, the root of the "duck" noun in most Indo-European languages.
In the domestic state the females greatly exceed in number, hence duck serves at once as the name of the female and of the race, drake being a specific term of sex. [OED]
As a term of endearment, attested from 1580s. duck-walk is 1930s; duck soup "anything easily done" is by 1899. Duck's ass haircut is from 1951. Ducks-and-drakes, skipping flat stones on water, is from 1580s; the figurative sense of "throwing something away recklessly" is c.1600.
"strong, untwilled linen (later cotton) fabric," used for sails and sailors' clothing, 1630s, from Dutch doeck "linen cloth" (Middle Dutch doec), related to German Tuch "piece of cloth," Danish dug, Old Frisian dok, Old High German tuoh, all of unknown origin.
"to plunge into" (transitive), c.1300; to suddenly go under water (intransitive), mid-14c., from presumed Old English *ducan "to duck," found only in derivative duce (n.) "duck" (but there are cognate words in other Germanic languages, e.g. Old High German tuhhan "to dip," German tauchen "to dive," Old Frisian duka, Middle Dutch duken "to dip, dive," Dutch duiken), from Proto-Germanic *dukjan.
Sense of "bend, stoop quickly" is first recorded in English 1520s. Related: Ducked; ducking. The noun is attested from 1550s in the sense of "quick stoop;" meaning "a plunge, dip" is from 1843.
water off a duck's back
To fail to catch on or make a mark: “The reporter's snide comments rolled off the candidate like water off a duck's back.”