AskDefine | Define duck

Dictionary Definition



1 small wild or domesticated web-footed broad-billed swimming bird usually having a depressed body and short legs
2 (cricket) a score of nothing by a batsman [syn: duck's egg]
3 flesh of a duck (domestic or wild)
4 a heavy cotton fabric of plain weave; used for clothing and tents


1 to move (the head or body) quickly downwards or away; "Before he could duck, another stone struck him"
2 submerge or plunge suddenly
3 dip into a liquid; "He dipped into the pool" [syn: dip, douse]
4 avoid or try to avoid fulfilling, answering, or performing (duties, questions, or issues); "He dodged the issue"; "she skirted the problem"; "They tend to evade their responsibilities"; "he evaded the questions skillfully" [syn: hedge, fudge, evade, put off, circumvent, parry, elude, skirt, dodge, sidestep]

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English duce.


  • /dʌk/


  1. An aquatic bird of the family Anatidae, having a flat bill and webbed feet.
  2. Specifically, an adult female duck; contrasted with drake and with duckling.
  3. The flesh of a duck used as food.
  4. A batsman's score of zero after getting out. (short for duck's egg, since the digit "0" is round like an egg.)
  5. (UK, especially East of the Pennines) Dear, Mate (informal way of addressing a friend or stranger).
    Ay up duck, ow'a'tha?
  6. A playing card with the rank of two.
  7. A tightly-woven cotton fabric used as sailcloth.
    • 1912, Katherine Mansfield, "The Woman At The Store", from "Selected Short Stories":
    He was dressed in a Jaeger vest—a pair of blue duck trousers, fastened round the waist with a plaited leather belt.

Scientific names

aquatic bird of the family Anatidae
female duck
flesh of a duck used as food
  • Danish: and
  • Finnish: ankka (domestic), sorsa (wild)
  • Greek: πάπια
  • Italian: anatra
  • Lao: ເປັດ (pe:t)
  • Polish: kaczka
  • Portuguese: pato
  • Russian: утка
  • Scots: deuk
  • Slovene: raca
  • Spanish: pato
  • Swedish: and (wild), anka (domesticated)
  • Thai: (bpèt)
  • Ukrainian: качка
  • Vietnamese: thịt vịt
a batsman's score of zero after getting out
slang: playing card two
  • Finnish: sorsa
cotton fabric
  • Ukrainian: парусина, грубе полотно


See also


  1. To lower the head in order to prevent it from being struck by something.
  2. To lower (something) into water.
  3. To lower (the head) in order to prevent it from being struck by something.
  4. To try to evade doing something.

Derived terms


to lower the head
to lower into the water
to lower in order to prevent it from being struck by something
to try to evade doing something

Extensive Definition

For duck as a food, see Duck (food); for other meanings, see Duck (disambiguation).
Duck is the common name for a number of species in the Anatidae family of birds. The ducks are divided between several subfamilies listed in full in the Anatidae article. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than their relatives the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water.
Ducks are sometimes confused with several types of unrelated water birds with similar forms, such as loons or divers, grebes, gallinules, and coots.


The word duck (from Anglo-Saxon dūce), meaning the bird, came from the verb "to duck" (from Anglo-Saxon supposed *dūcan) meaning "to bend down low as if to get under something" or "to dive", because of the way many species in the dabbling duck group feed by upending (compare Dutch duiken, German tauchen = "to dive").
This happened because the older Anglo-Saxon words ened (= "duck") and ende (= "end") came to be pronounced the same: other Germanic languages still have similar words for "duck" and "end": for example, Dutch eend = "duck", eind = "end", German ente = "duck", ende = "end"; this similarity goes back to Indo-European: compare Latin anas (stem anat-) = "duck", Lithuanian antis = "duck", Ancient Greek νησσα, νηττα (nēssa, nētta) = "duck"; Sanskrit anta = "end".
Some people use "duck" specifically for adult females and "drake" for adult males, for the species described here; others use "hen" and "drake", respectively.
A duckling is a young duck in downy plumage or baby duck.; but in the food trade young adult ducks ready for roasting are sometimes labelled "duckling".

Anatomy and behavior

Feathers and flight

Many species of duck are temporarily flightless while moulting; they seek out protected habitat with good food supplies during this period. This moult typically precedes migration.
The drakes of northern species often have extravagant plumage, but that is moulted in summer to give a more female-like appearance, the "eclipse" plumage. Southern resident species typically show less sexual dimorphism.


Most ducks have a wide flat beak adapted for dredging.
Ducks exploit a variety of food sources such as grasses, aquatic plants, fish, insects, small amphibians, worms, and small molluscs.
Diving ducks and sea ducks forage deep underwater. To be able to submerge more easily, the diving ducks are heavier than dabbling ducks, and therefore have more difficulty taking off to fly.
Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of water or on land, or as deep as they can reach by up-ending without completely submerging. Along the inside of the beak they have tiny rows of plates called lamellae like a whale's baleen. These let them filter water out of the side of their beaks and keep food inside.
A few specialized species such as the smew, goosander, and the mergansers are adapted to catch and swallow large fish.


Despite widespread misconceptions, most ducks other than female Mallards and domestic ducks do not "quack"; for example, the scaup makes a noise like "scaup", which its name came from.
A common urban legend claims that duck quacks do not echo; however, this has been shown to be false. This myth was first debunked by the Acoustics Research Centre at the University of Salford in 2003 as part of the British Association's Festival of Science. It was also debunked in one of the earlier episodes of the popular Discovery Channel television show MythBusters.


Distribution and habitat

Some duck species, mainly those breeding in the temperate and Arctic Northern Hemisphere, are migratory; those in the tropics, however, are generally not. Some ducks, particularly in Australia where rainfall is patchy and erratic, are nomadic, seeking out the temporary lakes and pools that form after localised heavy rain.
Ducks have become an accepted presence in populated areas. Migration patterns have changed such that many species remain in an area during the winter months. In spring and early summer ducks sometimes influence human activity through their nesting; sometimes a duck pair nests well away from water, needing a long trek to water for the hatchlings: this sometimes causes an urgent wildlife rescue operation (e.g. by the RSPCA) if the duck nested somewhere unsuitable like in a small enclosed courtyard.


A worldwide group like the ducks has many predators. Ducklings are particularly vulnerable, since their inability to fly makes them easy prey not only for avian hunters but also large fish like pike, crocodilians, and other aquatic hunters, including fish-eating birds such as herons. Ducks' nests may be raided by land-based predators, and brooding females may sometimes be caught unaware on the nest by mammals (e.g. foxes) and large birds, including hawks and eagles.
Adult ducks are fast fliers, but may be caught on the water by large aquatic predators. This can occasionally include fish such as the muskie in North America or the pike in Europe. In flight, ducks are safe from all but a few predators such as humans and the Peregrine Falcon, which regularly uses its speed and strength to catch ducks.

Relationship with humans


As food, "duck" refers to the meat of several species of bird in the Anatidae family, found in both fresh and salt water. Duck is eaten in many cuisines around the world.


Ducks have many economic uses, being farmed for their meat, eggs, feathers, (particularly their down). They are also kept and bred by aviculturists and often displayed in zoos. All domestic ducks are descended from the wild Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, except the Muscovy Duck . Many domestic breeds have become much larger than their wild ancestor, with a "hull length" (from base of neck to base of tail) of 30 cm (12 inches) or more and routinely able to swallow an adult British Common Frog Rana temporaria whole.
FAO reports that China is the top duck market in 2004 followed by Vietnam and other South East Asian countries.


In many areas, wild ducks of various species (including ducks farmed and released into the wild) are hunted for food or sport, by shooting, or formerly by decoys. From this came the expression "a sitting duck", which means "an easy target".

Cultural references

In 2002, psychologist Richard Wiseman and colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire (UK) finished a year-long LaughLab experiment, concluding that, of the animals in the world, the duck is the type that attracts most humor and silliness; he said "If you're going to tell a joke involving an animal, make it a duck." The word "duck" may have become an inherently funny word in many languages because ducks are seen as a silly animal, and their odd appearance compared to other birds. Of the many ducks in fiction, many are silly cartoon characters like Daffy Duck (see the New Scientist article mentioning humor in the word "duck").
A duck test is a form of inductive reasoning, which can be phrased as follows: "If a bird looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck." The test implies that a person can figure out the true nature of an unknown subject by observing this subject's readily identifiable traits. It is sometimes used to counter abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be.


See also


External links

duck in Afrikaans: Eend
duck in Tosk Albanian: Ente
duck in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Ened
duck in Arabic: بط
duck in Asturian: Coríu
duck in Min Nan: Ah
duck in Bulgarian: Патица
duck in Catalan: Ànec
duck in Czech: Kachna
duck in Welsh: Hwyaden
duck in Danish: Egentlige andefugle
duck in German: Ente
duck in Emiliano-Romagnolo: Anàdra
duck in Spanish: Pato
duck in Esperanto: Anaso
duck in Persian: اردک
duck in French: Canard
duck in Western Frisian: Einfûgels
duck in Galician: Pato
duck in Korean: 오리
duck in Ido: Anado
duck in Indonesian: Bebek
duck in Icelandic: Önd
duck in Italian: Anatra
duck in Hebrew: ברווז
duck in Georgian: იხვები
duck in Swahili (macrolanguage): Bata
duck in Haitian: Kanna
duck in Latin: Anas (avis)
duck in Lithuanian: Antis
duck in Malay (macrolanguage): Itik
duck in Dutch: Eenden
duck in Dutch Low Saxon: Ente
duck in Japanese: 鴨
duck in Norwegian: Andefamilien
duck in Norwegian Nynorsk: Andefamilien
duck in Occitan (post 1500): Guit
duck in Low German: Aant
duck in Polish: Kaczki
duck in Portuguese: Pato
duck in Quechua: Pili
duck in Russian: Утки
duck in Simple English: Duck
duck in Finnish: Sorsat
duck in Swedish: Änder
duck in Thai: เป็ด
duck in Turkish: Ördek
duck in Samogitian: Pīlė
duck in Chinese: 鸭

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Adamite, Bantam, Cornish hen, about the bush, also-ran, angel, avert, avoid, avoidance, avoiding reaction, babe, baby, baby-doll, back and fill, banty, baptism, baptize, barn-door fowl, barnyard fowl, bastard, beat around, beg the question, being, bend, bend the knee, biddy, bilk, bird, blench, blink, bob, body, booby, bow, broiler, brooder, broody hen, bugger, burial, bury, buttercup, caille, canard, caneton, capon, case, cat, chanticleer, chap, chapon, character, cherub, chick, chickabiddy, chicken, chicky, circumvention, cock, cockerel, creature, cringe, crouch, curtsy, customer, darling, dear, deary, defeatee, defense mechanism, deluge, dindon, dip, dipping, dive, dodge, dog it, doll, domestic fowl, double, douse, dousing, drake, draw back, draw in, drown, duck duty, ducking, duckling, dunghill fowl, dunk, dunking, earthling, elude, elusion, elusiveness, engulf, engulfment, equivocate, equivocation, escape, eschew, evade, evasion, evasive action, evasiveness, fade, faisan, fall back, fall guy, fallback, feller, fellow, fence, flinch, float, flood, flow on, forbearance, forestalling, forestallment, fowl, fryer, game fowl, game loser, gander, genuflect, genuflection, get out of, getting around, gobbler, goldbrick, good loser, good sport, goof off, goose, gosling, groundling, grouse, guinea cock, guinea fowl, guinea hen, guy, hand, hang back, head, hedge, hem and haw, hen, hen turkey, homo, hon, honey, honey bunch, honey child, hum and haw, human, human being, immerge, immergence, immerse, immersion, individual, inundate, inundation, jasper, jib, jink, joker, kneel, kneeling, kowtow, lad, lamb, lambkin, life, living soul, loser, love, lover, make a reverence, malinger, man, merge, mince the truth, mince words, mortal, neutrality, nod, nonintervention, noninvolvement, nose, not pull fair, obeisance, oddball, oddity, oie, one, original, overwhelm, palter, parry, partlet, partridge, party, person, personage, personality, pet, petkins, pheasant, pigeon, pigeonneau, plunge, plunge in water, poulard, poulet, poult, poultry, pour on, precious, precious heart, prevaricate, prevent, prevention, prostration, pull away, pull back, pull in, pull out, pullback, pullet, pullout, pussyfoot, put off, quail, quiz, rain, recoil, reel back, refraining, retract, retreat, reverence, roaster, rooster, salaam, setting hen, sheer off, shift, shift off, shirk, shrink, shrink back, shun, shunning, shunting off, shy, shy away, shy off, sidestep, sidestepping, sidetracking, single, sink, sinking, skulk, slack, slide out of, slip, slip out of, sluice, sneak out of, snookums, soldier, somebody, someone, soul, souse, sousing, spook, sport, spring chicken, squab, squat, start aside, start back, steer clear of, step aside, stewing chicken, stooge, stoop, stud, submerge, submergence, submerse, submersion, sugar, supination, swamp, sweet, sweetheart, sweetie, sweetkins, sweets, swerve, tellurian, tergiversate, terran, the runaround, the vanquished, tom, tom turkey, turkey, turkey gobbler, turkey-cock, turn aside, underdog, victim, volaille, waffle, ward, ward off, weasel, weasel out, welsh, whelm, wild duck, wince, withdraw, worldling, zigzag, zombie
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