Live free as a duckling
Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the waterfowl family Anatidae, which also includes swans and geese. Ducks are divided among several subfamilies in the family Anatidae; they do not represent a monophyletic group (the group of all descendants of a single common ancestral species) but a form taxon, since swans and geese are not considered ducks. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than 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 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”, German Ente “duck” and Norwegian and “duck”. The word ened/ænid was inherited from Proto-Indo-European; compare: Latin anas “duck”, Lithuanian ántis “duck”, Ancient Greek nēssa/nētta (νῆσσα, νῆττα) “duck”, and Sanskrit ātí “water bird”, among others.
A duckling is a young duck in downy plumage1 or baby duck,2 but in the food trade a young domestic duck which has just reached adult size and bulk and its meat is still fully tender, is sometimes labelled as a duckling.
A male duck is called a drake and the female is called a duck, or in ornithology a hen.
1. The first rule of the ancient Book of Ducklings: Duckling-enrichment is encouraged.
2. The second rule of the ancient Book of Ducklings: Accidents happen..
3. The third rule of the ancient Book of Ducklings: mutual destruction over honest defeat.