duck a bird which exists in many wild species right round the world (see wild duck), but of which the domesticated kinds are those commonly eaten. Domestication began over 2,000 years ago in China, and was being practised in classical Rome (witness Columella, 1st century ad) and has been pursued with enthusiasm in many parts of the world. In Europe and N. America almost all domesticated breeds stem from the mallard duck, but they exhibit considerable differences in size, appearance, etc.
A duck (of either gender—the term drake is not used in a culinary context) is usually six months old or more, while a duckling is younger. The French terms are canard and caneton.