British Culture & Expressions

Dud: Not working or meeting standards; faulty.

A dud is a device, person or enterprise that fails to work properly, and or proves to be a failure or worthless.

Origin of the term

The term dates back to the 1300s when the word dudde referred to a cloak (cape) or mantle of coarse (rough) cloth. Over time, it came to refer to shabby clothing meaning worn-out or ragged clothing. It is a cognate (‘related word’) of duds (i.e., “clothing”) and dowdy (‘frumpy, not stylish’). The sense of inferiority (ragged ‘wearing rags’) denotes something that fails to function.

A dud bomb

Eventually dud became a general pejorative for something useless. For instance, a dud bomb is an ammunition round or explosive that fails to fire or detonate.

Milk Duds

Milk Duds are a caramel candy, covered with a confectionery coating made from cocoa and vegetable oil. According to the manufacturer, the word “Milk” in the name refers to a large amount of milk in the product; the use of “dud” came about because the original aim of having a perfectly spherical piece was found to be impossible.

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