What does the idiom "kick the bucket" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does kick the bucket mean? In what situations is kick the bucket used?

Meaning of "kick the bucket"


The phrase “kick the bucket” is a colloquial idiom meaning to die. This can be used to explicitly or figuratively refer to death, and it is generally used as a more subtle or humorous way to discuss the topic of death.


The origin of “kick the bucket” is uncertain, but it is generally believed to derive from the 1700s British phrase “to kick the beam,” which referred to dying. This phrase was derived from the practice of hanging a pig by its hind legs from a beam, which would kick its legs out as it asphyxiated. The phrase then morphed into more modern versions such as “kick the tub” and “kick the pail,” which eventually shortened to “kick the bucket.”


The phrase “kick the bucket” is used to discuss death in a more lighthearted or humorous way. It is used to soften the blow of talking about a death or to take away some of the discomfort of discussing the topic in general. It can also be used as a more direct way to discuss death, rather than using a more formal or somber phrase.

Example Sentences

  • "He was a good man and we’ll miss him dearly now that he’s kicked the bucket."
  • "It’s sad to think that he kicked the bucket so young."
  • "It’s only a matter of time before we all kick the bucket."

The meanings of the words in the "kick the bucket" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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