Kick the Bucket (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Kick the Bucket"?

The term "kick the bucket" means to die.

Table of Contents

  • English Proverbs and Idioms Test
  • More Proverbs, Sayings, and Idioms
Kick the Bucket (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • When someone says they're going to kick the bucket, it means they're joking about dying.
  • The elderly man lived a fulfilling life before finally kicking the bucket.
  • He always wanted to travel the world but unfortunately kicked the bucket before he had the chance.
  • It's never too early to start pursuing your dreams; you never know when you might kick the bucket.
  • While the phrase "kick the bucket" may sound morbid, it's often used humorously to talk about death.
"Kick the bucket" is a euphemism for to die. It has been in use since at least the 18th century as it appears as an entry in Francis Grose's "A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," which was published in 1785. (NB: Grose was one of the first lexicographers to record the meanings of slang words, which he collected from commoners and the criminal underworld.)

This idiom originates from the Catholic Church. When a person died, a bucket of holy water was placed at their feet so mourners could sprinkle water on the body. The term therefore describes having a bucket by your feet, not physically kicking it.

Competing Theory

In England in the 16th century, the word "bucket" meant "beam." When an animal was hanged by the feet for slaughter, it would kick the beam (or bucket) as it died.

Competing Theory

The term originates from public hangings. More specifically, it refers to kicking away the bucket on which a condemned person was standing. (Detractors of this theory highlight that the person who kicks the bucket is not the person who dies.)

Previous and Next Sayings

English Proverbs and Idioms Test

More Proverbs, Sayings, and Idioms

author logo

This page was written by Craig Shrives.