What does the idiom "like water off a duck's back" mean?

The phrase like water off a duck's back is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of like water off a duck's back.

Meaning of "like water off a duck's back"


The English idiom "like water off a duck's back" is used to describe something or someone that is unaffected by criticism or insults. It implies a resistance or a dismissal of whatever the comment was.


The origin of this phrase is unclear, but it is assumed to have originated in the 19th century. The image of a duck or a duckling not being affected by water rolling off its back could have been a source of inspiration for the phrase. One theory suggests that this phrase was created in reference to oil-coated ducks, which were used by hunters to attract prey by simulating the effect of water rolling off a duck. The phrase is also sometimes used in other languages, such as French, German, and Italian.


This idiom is typically used to describe situations where a person is unaffected by what is being said or done to them. It is often used to describe an emotional resilience to insults or criticism. It can also be used to encourage someone to maintain their composure when faced with difficult situations or insults. It is important to note that this idiom is not meant to be interpreted literally, as ducks are actually quite sensitive to water.

Example Sentences

  • He was undaunted by their criticism and insults; it was like water off a duck's back to him.
  • She was determined not to let his comments affect her—it was like water off a duck's back.
  • No matter how hard they tried, their insults and criticism just rolled off him—it was like water off a duck's back.
  • Nothing seemed to bother him—everything seemed to go in one ear and out the other, like water off a duck's back.

The meanings of the words in the "like water off a duck's back" idiom

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


No comment has been written about like water off a duck's back yet, you can write the first comment and share your thoughts with our other visitors.
Leave a Reply