noun, plural shel·drakes, (especially collectively) shel·drake.
- any of several Old World ducks of the genus Tadorna, certain species of which have highly variegated plumage.
- any of various other ducks, especially the goosander or merganser.
n.early 14c., from sheld- “variegated” + drake “male duck.” First element cognate with Middle Dutch schillede “separated, variegated,” West Flemish schilde, from schillen (Dutch verschillen “to make different”), from Proto-Germanic *skeli-, from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) “to cut” (see scale (n.1)). This is the origin considered most likely, though English sheld by itself is a dialect word attested only from c.1500. OED finds derivation from shield (n.), on resemblance to the patterns on shields, “improbable.”