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[buhk-it] /ˈbʌk ɪt/
a deep, cylindrical vessel, usually of metal, plastic, or wood, with a flat bottom and a semicircular bail, for collecting, carrying, or holding water, sand, fruit, etc.; pail.
anything resembling or suggesting this.
  1. any of the scoops attached to or forming the endless chain in certain types of conveyors or elevators.
  2. the scoop or clamshell of a steam shovel, power shovel, or dredge.
  3. a vane or blade of a waterwheel, paddle wheel, water turbine, or the like.
(in a dam) a concave surface at the foot of a spillway for deflecting the downward flow of water.
a bucketful:
a bucket of sand.
  1. Informal. field goal.
  2. the part of the keyhole extending from the foul line to the end line.
Bowling. a leave of the two, four, five, and eight pins, or the three, five, six, and nine pins.
verb (used with object), bucketed, bucketing.
to lift, carry, or handle in a bucket (often followed by up or out).
Chiefly British. to ride (a horse) fast and without concern for tiring it.
to handle (orders, transactions, etc.) in or as if in a bucket shop.
verb (used without object), bucketed, bucketing.
Informal. to move or drive fast; hurry.
drop in the bucket, a small, usually inadequate amount in relation to what is needed or requested:
The grant for research was just a drop in the bucket.
drop the bucket on, Australian Slang. to implicate, incriminate, or expose.
kick the bucket, Slang. to die:
His children were greedily waiting for him to kick the bucket.
Origin of bucket
1250-1300; Middle English buket < Anglo-French < Old English bucc (variant of būc vessel, belly; cognate with German Bauch) + Old French -et -et
Regional variation note
Though both bucket and pail are used throughout the entire U.S., pail has its greatest use in the Northern U.S., and bucket is more commonly used elsewhere, especially in the Midland and Southern U.S. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for bucket
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The bucket is perforated at the bottom, and being elevated, the oil drains off.

  • The men were drinking out of a bucket that flashed in the sun.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • Then she picked one of the knives from the bucket and handed it to him.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
  • Presently she filled a cup from the bucket beside her and handed it to Donald.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
  • They still carry the bucket and the pole, hoping yet dreading to meet their parents.

    Classic Myths Mary Catherine Judd
British Dictionary definitions for bucket


an open-topped roughly cylindrical container; pail
Also called bucketful. the amount a bucket will hold
any of various bucket-like parts of a machine, such as the scoop on a mechanical shovel
a cupped blade or bucket-like compartment on the outer circumference of a water wheel, paddle wheel, etc
(computing) a unit of storage on a direct-access device from which data can be retrieved
(mainly US) a turbine rotor blade
(Austral & NZ) an ice cream container
(slang) kick the bucket, to die
verb -kets, -keting, -keted
(transitive) to carry in or put into a bucket
(intransitive) often foll by down. (of rain) to fall very heavily: it bucketed all day
(mainly Brit) (intransitive) often foll by along. to travel or drive fast
(transitive) (mainly Brit) to ride (a horse) hard without consideration
(transitive) (Austral, slang) to criticize severely
Word Origin
C13: from Anglo-French buket, from Old English būc; compare Old High German būh belly, German Bauch belly
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bucket

mid-13c., from Anglo-French buquet "bucket, pail," from Old French buquet "bucket," which is from a Germanic source, or a diminutive of cognate Old English buc "pitcher, bulging vessel," originally "belly" (buckets were formerly of leather as well as wood), both from West Germanic *buh- (cf. Dutch buik, Old High German buh, German Bauch "belly"), from PIE *bhou-, variant of root *bheu- "to grow, swell" (see be).

Kick the bucket "to die" (1785) perhaps is from unrelated Old French buquet "balance," a beam from which slaughtered animals were hung; perhaps reinforced by the notion of suicide by hanging after standing on an upturned bucket (but Farmer calls attention to bucket "a Norfolk term for a pulley").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for bucket



  1. A car, esp a big, old car (1930s+)
  2. A ship, esp an old and slow ship; rust bucket (1840s+ Merchant marine & Navy)
  3. A destroyer; can, tin can (Navy by WWII)
  4. The buttocks; rump: Knocked him on his bucket (1930s+)
  5. The basketball net (1920s+ Basketball)
  6. A basketball goal: He'll make ten buckets a game (1920s+ Basketball)
  7. The rearmost part of the batter's box •The source expression was ''have his foot in the water-bucket'': had his foot way back in the bucket/ Emily steps into the bucket when going for a pitch (1913+ Baseball)
  8. Jail: These days, the Gray Bar Motel is a synonym for ''the bucket,'' which means jail (1990s+ Los Angeles police)


To speed; barrel: The kids were bucketing along (1860s+)

Related Terms

brain bucket, someone can't carry a tune in a bucket, drop one's buckets, for crying out loud, go to hell in a handbasket, gutbucket, kick the bucket, lard-bucket, rust bucket, sleaze-bucket, slimebag

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with bucket
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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