Decoy - Encyclopedia Britannica 1911




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DECOY, a contrivance for the capture or enticing of duck and other wild fowl within range of a gun, hence any trap or enticement into a place or situation of danger. Decoys are usually made on the following plan: long tunnels leading from the sea, channel or estuary into a pool or pond are covered with an arched net, which gradually narrows in width; the ducks are enticed into this by a tame trained bird, also known as a "decoy" or "decoy-duck." In America the "decoy" is an artificial bird, placed in the water as if it were feeding, which attracts the wild fowl within range of the concealed sportsman. The word "decoy" has, etymologically, a complicated history. It appears in English first in the 17th century in these senses as "coy" and "coy-duck," from the Dutch kooi, a word which is ultimately connected with Latin cavea, hollow place, "cage." 1 The de-, with which the word begins, is either a corruption of "duck-coy," the Dutch article de, or a corruption of the Dutch eende-kooi, eende, duck. The New English Dictionary points out that the word "decoy" is found in the particular sense of a sharper or swindler as a slang term slightly earlier than "coy" or "decoy" in the ordinary sense, and, as the name of a game of cards, as early as 1550, apparently with no connexion in meaning. It is suggested that "coy" may have been adapted to this word.

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