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If one googles, one finds that Oxford Languages (ex 'Lexico' etc) claims that the etymology of dupe is that the word is based on the old French word for a type of bird thought to be unintelligent:

  • date 17th century: from dialect French dupe [‘hoopoe’], from the bird's supposedly stupid appearance.

But it seems to me the word might be related instead to the word "duplicate" since many sleight of hand tricks or con artist scams rely on the replacement of the actual object with a duplicate.

I find the bird explanation fairly contrived whereas the derivation from duplicate sounds closer. How can I pursue this further?

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    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 15:20

1 Answer 1

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The full Oxford English Dictionary has two separate entries for the noun, and another two entries for the verb.

But note that they're both noun + verb matched pairs - one pair do indeed derive from French dupe = deluded person, and the other (originally from the "cinematograpic" context) is shortened from duplicate.

The OED do say the original French term was in 1426 said to belong to ‘the manner of speaking that they call jargon’. But they don't mention hoopoe birds or their supposed stupidity.

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  • Thanks. If you can piece together the French, here are more references that go into rather greater detail: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 17:31
  • thanks. nice to know my intuition was correct. OED is just tops. when other sources had "bug" dating from the 20th century, they found 1880s Edison usage (in regard to phonograph -- I had found this independently but dictionaries had not) OED got officious in the Barney Fife sense when other dictionaries had offering unsolicited advice, not the "petty tyrant" (you have to know the Fife character) that I think most people used it as and we needed; the old usage no one would understand, I don't think. But what do they mean by "cinematographic" here?
    – releseabe
    Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 17:59
  • Isn't hoopoe a loan-bird? Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 19:55
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    @tchrist: the French word duppe, meaning easily fooled and attested in 1426, does seem to be from thieves' jargon. See this website. It's less clear to me whether the derivation from huppe (hoopoe) is valid or just ancient French folk etymology. (This etymology, possibly folk, is indeed attested long ago in French, but it seems only after the word duppe was in use.) Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 20:04
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    @releseabe "nice to know my intuition was correct" But the answer does not in fact confirm your intuition that "dupe" in the sense of "con" (which is presumably what you were talking about, otherwise your proposed explanation does not make much sense to me) derives from "duplicate".
    – Pilcrow
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 0:50

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