Posted by Mark Adamson on January 05, 2005
I understood the phrase to come from hanging. When a criminal was hung - particularly where there were no formal gallows, a rope would be placed around his neck and put over the bow of a tree. The criminal would be stood upon a bucket. The executioner, soldier or other appointed person would then "kick the bucket" from under the feet of the villain causing him to drop. I beleive this originates in England.
See also - the meaning and origin of Kick the bucket.