Definition of decoy in English:



  • 1A bird or mammal, or an imitation of one, used by hunters to attract other birds or mammals.

    [as modifier] ‘a decoy duck’
    • ‘Volunteers are planning to make decoys and place them on the island to attract roseate terns in time for next year's nesting season.’
    • ‘Using the foot peg, the base is driven into the mud in a shallow area, such that the duck decoy flies conspicuously above the water.’
    • ‘The commercial, or ‘market,’ hunters at that time used large rigs of finely crafted decoys to attract a smaller and more wary pool of waterfowl.’
    • ‘Supporters counter that it is no more unfair than using bird calls and decoys to attract birds or using baited hooks to catch fish.’
    • ‘The decoy bird must be provided with adequate food, water, shelter and a perch for the entire period during which it is used.’
    • ‘More than 150 craftspeople, including makers of violins, baskets, and duck decoys, travel from all over Britain to take part in the event.’
    • ‘The site is a great resource for waterfowlers, offering expert guidance on critical issues like duck calling, decoys, and retrievers.’
    • ‘Brandon also had a room which meant we were only some 10 miles from Havre De Grace which is a delightful historic town which has many sites of interest including a Duck decoy museum!’
    • ‘Eventually, all four gobblers were standing in a small space - the only place I couldn't see - about 20 yards from the hen decoy.’
    • ‘For example, the waterfowler laboring across a muddy marsh and toting a sack of decoys has no business with a loaded gun in his hand or over his shoulder.’
    • ‘Who knew that duck decoys could go for such astronomical prices?’
    • ‘Nothing sets up a capsize like a hunter, jacket pockets full of shotgun shells, leaning over the edge of a low-freeboard duck boat laying out decoys with his dog eagerly leaning next to him.’
    • ‘A major percentage of turkey hunters today hunt with decoys, and it's big business.’
    • ‘We collected scaup with a shotgun by sneaking or spotlighting at night to avoid potential collection biases associated with using decoys or baiting.’
    • ‘A friend and top-notch guide named Kim Martin used to repaint his duck decoys before each season.’
    • ‘Their tendency to roost in tight flocks and be easily attracted to decoys may have made them vulnerable to market hunters, who had a significant impact on the population.’
    • ‘The net was being controlled by someone in a nearby hut who was able to pull the string to make the decoy attract other birds.’
    • ‘He began making bird decoys when he was thirteen in Birds Landing, California.’
    • ‘Successful seabird colonies were established based on this concept, and by using decoys and song playbacks, other potential areas could become attractive after a disturbance, natural or otherwise.’
    • ‘The birds never alarmed while the decoy was placed or removed, but did so during nest visits, so we believe that disturbance due to the observer was negligible.’
    1. 1.1A person or thing used to mislead or lure an animal or person into a trap.
      ‘we need a decoy to distract their attention’
      • ‘And is that $400 bribe a decoy / distraction to make us look the other way?’
      • ‘When threatened, the octopus can squirt out ink as a decoy to distract its predator and allowing the octopus to escape.’
      • ‘Additionally, intelligence sources suspected them of setting off beacons as tactical deception decoys.’
      • ‘They fought back by destroying their own bases and and any who tried to escape the decoys.’
      • ‘That whole wing of the base was nothing but an elaborate decoy designed to trap invaders.’
      • ‘Since 1972, decoy traps baited with seeds and live cowbirds have been set out across the warbler's breeding grounds.’
      • ‘He would send out decoys who would lure the unwary into crap games and then he would swoop down and grab them.’
      • ‘Deception and decoys, digging in and waiting for the storm to pass - what every Yugoslav commander learnt to do when Tito's Yugoslavia feared a Soviet attack.’
      • ‘The con happened a week after a nine-year-old boy was used as a decoy in three distraction burglaries in Kendal and Windermere, during which wallets and purses were stolen.’
      • ‘Your Majesty, though a large force has been assembled in the South, it is but a decoy, to lure us away from our target.’
      • ‘So, unless the unlikely happened and they split up, the dot he was heading towards was a decoy and possibly a trap.’
      • ‘The captain, with the help of his men, came up with a plan to set off a decoy to lure the fighters away from us in hopes that we could break free.’
      • ‘They realize it is a she-wolf who is acting as a decoy to lure the dogs away from camp so that they can be eaten by the wolf pack.’
      • ‘That was the plan, and it relied on the enemy being distracted by their decoys.’
      • ‘Harder to discuss, the memory of young men sent out as decoys to trick the troops into stopping.’
      lure, bait, red herring
      enticement, inducement, temptation, attraction, allurement, draw, carrot, ensnarement, entrapment
      snare, trap, pitfall, ambush
      View synonyms
  • 2A pond from which narrow netted channels lead, into which wild ducks may be enticed for capture.

    • ‘An ancient decoy pond, originally created to lure wildfowl and deer for the abbot to hunt is being restored, as is the original wooden deer fence.’


  • Lure or entice (a person or animal) away from an intended course, typically into a trap.

    ‘they would try to decoy the enemy toward the hidden group’
    • ‘Equally lacking in some essential points are the various post-election party urgings which are aimed at decoying us into focusing on domestic issues.’
    • ‘The other major advance will include systems designed to decoy anti-tank missiles.’
    • ‘Kevin made a sharp bank left and popped flares to decoy any incoming missiles.’
    • ‘I was told last night that this storyboarded ending was only ever used to decoy the studio away from the real ending, which is the one they shot.’
    • ‘The Lieutenant and 80 soldiers, much against orders, pursued the attackers and were wiped out when they were decoyed into an ambush of 1,000 waiting warriors.’
    • ‘The soldiers were decoyed to a border region while the Viet Cong mounted a major offensive in the urban areas.’
    • ‘Pioneered in the air war against the country's neighbour, these drones were designed to decoy air defences and save the lives of pilots.’
    • ‘Each flare decoyed one missile perfectly, and then she was turning back towards him.’
    • ‘As his fleet approached the island of Las Aves, which is a hundred miles off the coast of Venezuela, they were decoyed onto the island's reef by a small force of three Dutch ships.’
    • ‘The decoys are controlled over a serial data link to decoy passive and active homing torpedoes.’
    • ‘What they'll try to do is either decoy us or create a diversion, something to get us to respond, to move out of the area where they want to go.’
    • ‘Don't be shy about running sideways to avoid or decoy the defensive pressure before passing.’
    • ‘They were not so much innocent victims decoyed to ‘a fate worse than death’, as professionals seeking the best market opportunities.’
    • ‘Most successful basketball plays involve only two or three players in any particular play with the remaining players maneuvering or decoying opponents away from the intended point of attack.’
    • ‘We were overhead in a matter of minutes and, though we had no bullets or rockets, we flew a daisy chain over the area to decoy the enemy fire.’
    lure, entice, induce, inveigle, ensnare
    tempt, seduce
    entrap, snare, trap
    View synonyms


Mid 16th century (earlier as coy): from Dutch de kooi the decoy from Middle Dutch de kouw the cage from Latin cavea cage decoy is from the practice of using tamed ducks to lead wild ones along channels into captivity.