Maybe more a cultural question, about USA.

Not the same question as:

to duck out to do something

...this question is based on that, stop saying it's duplicated please :)

If "to duck out" is "to sneak out", why a duck? Do Americans see ducks as a "sneaky" animal?

I saw this in Avengers Endgame. Tony says to Strange "you should've ducked out".

  • 4
    Lexico has for duck² 1 Lower the head or the body quickly to avoid a blow or missile or so as not to be seen. Also 1.3 Evade or avoid (an unwelcome duty or undertaking). Also from etymology c. 1300, "to plunge into" (transitive); mid-14c., "to suddenly go under water and immediately withdraw". Because that is what ducks do. Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 20:05
  • Who remembers Duck and Cover?
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 20:06
  • 1
    @DjinTonic no, I've linked that one my question and got on from there. Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 20:25
  • Also "When his wife arrived in the emergency department, Reagan remarked to her, "Honey, I forgot to duck", borrowing boxer Jack Dempsey's line to his wife the night he was beaten by Gene Tunney." -- Wikipedia
    – Xanne
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 20:26
  • @Lexico got it... It's a "duck in the water" context then. Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 20:27

2 Answers 2


Green’s Dictionary of Slang suggests that the usage of duck in duck out meaning:

  1. to make off, to leave, to abscond.
  • 1898 [US] F. Norris Moran of the Lady Letty 15: I’ve got to duck my nut or I’ll have the patrol boat after me.

derives from the old sense of duck meaning “to escape, to run off” as in:

do a/the duck (v.) (also do a duckaway)

  • 1896 [US] F. Hutcheson Barkeep Stories 173: ‘Dey ’re sore ’cause I do me duckaway an’ dey t’ink dey ’ll just take a shot at me anyhow’.
  • The OP already knows what the phrase means, and that is in any event, addressed in the question that the OP refers to. The question was why duck? What does ducking out have to do with ducks?
    – jsw29
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 21:13

There are two stages of metaphor here. Or maybe a half?

A duck is not a sneaky animal like a fox. But it has this common behavior of quickly putting its head underwater. This motion of dipping or diving, for any animal, humans presumably, was historically Old English 'ducan' which, by metaphor, came to be used for the animal.

The canonical image upon hearing the word 'duck' as a noun is the wading bird. If as a verb, canonically, it is the motion. But really, these are both pretty common so sure 'ducking out' could easily evoke the animal.

So the phrase 'to duck out' as in "I ducked out of the meeting to take a call" is metaphorical on the motion, to leave for a moment (or quietly leave altogether).

  • 2
    Needs reference.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 17:17
  • @GEdgar see the etymonline reference under 'historically'
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 18:05

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