Duck!

A duck is an aquatic animal, found in freshwater environments around the world.

I probably haven’t blown your mind by telling you that. Nor, I’m sure, will I do so by telling you that to duck is a verb meaning to quickly dip your head. I may, however, surprise you slightly by telling you which word came first.

If you don’t know already, you might be able to guess. And this isn’t one of those cases wherein the words have very different etymologies, and are identical purely by coincidence. No, the words are quite directly related, and once you know how, it seems really obvious in retrospect. You see, a duck is so called because it… ducks!

Well to be more specific, it dives. To duck had existed in English since at least the early 14th century, meaning to dive. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when ducks got their English name, but considering they’re named for their habit of diving underwater for food, it’s safe to assume that the verb to duck was in existence long before we named the bird.

The modern meaning of to duck as in to quickly lower your head first appeared in the late 16th century, and gradually came to solely refer to specifically this action, and the bird, and not diving in general.

The first recorded use of ducking, as an adjective, is from the late 20th century, and is believed to have been used by a Nokia 3310, when its owner wanted to say f**king.

I always find that really ducking annoying.

13 thoughts on “Duck!

  1. My dad (from the East coast of Scotland) always referred to his swimming trunks as ‘dookers’ – I wonder if that comes from the same original source? And ‘ducking and diving’ is a common enough phrase too… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m surprised that there isn’t an earlier record of ducking, since witches were punished on a ducking stool. Maybe that is a modern term for it – it could have been called something else in the 1600’s

    Always interesting 😊👍

    Liked by 1 person

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