Etymonline and wiktionary don't seem to agree on that one.

Many European languages have cognates (Ente, anatra, eend), but duck seems isolated. Where does English take duck from?

As Henry has pointed out, the etymologies of etymonline and wiktionary are actually consistent. See comments.

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    "wikitionary" means nothing, it's not a reference just a chat site. but you seem to be looking at the wrong page "duce" rather than "duck"....?
    – Fattie
    Jul 8, 2011 at 20:45
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    @Joe, If you have looked up duck in wiktionary you have probably noticed that the first etymology section points at the Old English word duce /ˈdʊke/ (and I don't quite share your rating of wiktionary). Jul 8, 2011 at 21:05
  • They are consistent, though Etymonline is fuller, both pointing at duce. It seems the bird name comes from the action, and the action has germanic cognates.
    – Henry
    Jul 8, 2011 at 23:19
  • @Henry, except that the duce of wiktionary says "From Latin dūcere, present active infinitive of dūcō" and that ducere is to lead rather than to dive. I discovered that only after a while. Jul 8, 2011 at 23:32
  • @Alan: That is for the Italian/Latin/Romanian duce related to Duke, not the Old English duce related to duck.
    – Henry
    Jul 8, 2011 at 23:41

1 Answer 1


From the wikipedia page for the animal:

The word duck comes from Old English *dūce "diver", a derivative of the verb *dūcan "to duck, bend down low as if to get under something, or dive", because of the way many species in the dabbling duck group feed by upending; compare with Dutch duiken and German tauchen "to dive".

This word replaced Old English ened/ænid "duck", possibly to avoid confusion with other Old English words, like ende "end" with similar forms. Other Germanic languages still have similar words for "duck", for example, Dutch eend "duck" and German Ente "duck". The word ened/ænid was inherited from Proto-Indo-European; compare: Latin anas "duck", Lithuanian ántis "duck", Ancient Greek nēssa/nētta (νήσσα, νήττα) "duck", and Sanskrit ātí "water bird", among others.

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