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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."