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Kick the Bucket

the rim of a paint bucket

Kick the Bucket Definition

To kick the bucket.

  • To die; expire.
  • To break or stop functioning if referencing a machine like a car or dishwasher.


A possible meaning for the phrase is a reference to Hanging oneself. One might stand on a bucket before putting on the noose, then ‘kick’ the bucket away.

Kick the Bucket Examples

  • Did you hear about that old grump that always sat outside the dollar store? He finally kicked the bucket!
  • My nephew was the only one in my will. But I had to take him off after I overheard him say he can’t wait until I kick the bucket..


I think there were some dubious feelings about it, that the first ‘Scarface’ would not be surpassed by the second ‘Scarface.’ We were wrong; it surpassed it. The acting talent, the cinematography – we were propelled into a real class action film. Long after I kick the bucket, it’ll be played.

Robert Loggia

I cleaned up my act because otherwise I would have kicked the bucket.

Lou Reed

Kick the Bucket Origin

Literary Origin

BUCKET. To kick the bucket; to die.

Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Francis Grose, 1785

The first recorded use of our idiom as it’s used today comes from the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by English lexicographer Francis Grose. Grose along with his partner Tom Cocking took midnight strolls through London to collect this comprehensive collection of English slang from that period. Listening to the nightly riffraff of the local pubs and alleyways.

Spiritual Origin

In that you have disgraced excellent beginnings with a base outcome and turned your advantage into injury, you have done as the she-goat when she kicks over the pail of her milk, and with her hoof spills her own riches.

Emblemata, Andrea Alciato, 1531

A passage that has been described as a possible origin for this phrase appears in the Emblemata, a collection of Latin poems written by the Italian jurist Andrea Alciato. Also known as simply Alciati, Andrea dedicated his poems to Konrad Peutinger a German humanist and counselor to the Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and George V.

The Emblemata is an emblem book. A collection of symbolic images and icons known as emblems paired with a poem or explanatory text. Emblem books were hugely popular and a big part of European culture during the 16th and 17th centuries,