Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Get your ducks in a row


What does get your ducks in a row mean? Do people really have ducks, and why are they putting them in rows?


These are entirely imaginary ducks. Getting your ducks in a row means organizing your tasks and schedule so that you are ready for the next step.

There are a number of theories behind these ducks. Real ducklings, of course, walk in a line behind their parent, and the expression ducks in a row certainly brings that image to mind.

Other theories involve the precise set-up of duckpins, which are a type of bowling pin, or the mechanical ducks you can shoot at in a carnival firing range. Some sources suggest the phrase comes from the game of pool, when a number of balls, called sitting ducks, line up neatly near pockets and can be tapped in one after another.

Getting your ducks in a row has become a cliché, and some people object to its use. You should avoid it when you write. Simply say "get organized" or "prepare yourself."