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Canard is French for duck, but even in French it has another rare sense: an extravagant or absurd story used to take advantage of someone. This is the meaning canard takes in English, and it’s sometimes extended to mean, simply, an unfounded or false story or a groundless rumor. In political writing, it is often used to summarily dismiss a widely held view that the writer considers false (see the examples below).

This sense of canard comes from a mysterious French phrase translating to “to half-sell a duck,” which presumably has origins in a now-forgotten story about a duck-seller’s hoax.

Canard is also an aviation term. It refers to the small, stabilizing wings toward the front of some aircraft, as well as to aircraft that have canards.


“It was easy to overlook the president’s repetition of the tired canard that somehow “equal pay for equal work” still eludes women. [National Review]

He shows a startling lack of even basic understanding, trotting out the old canard of “pure chance” … [Telegraph]

The Republicans pretty much have put to rest the canard that only Democrats know how to have fun. [Washington Times]

The old financial canard still plays well, so the media continue to rerun it, and will do so for the foreseeable future. [Town Hall]

Gruber also repeats the canard that DNA “is a window into an individual’s medical history,” thus raising privacy concerns. [Albany Times Union]