phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Kick the Bucket

Posted by Abe on January 05, 2005

In Reply to: Kick the Bucket posted by ESC 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.

: : My understanding is that it is the person who dies that 'kicks the bucket.' The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following:

: : Bucket: 1248, from Anglo-Norm. buquet "bucket, pail," infl. by or dim. of O.E. buc "pitcher, bulging vessel," orig. "belly" (buckets were formerly of leather as well as wood), from P.Gmc. *bukaz, from PIE root *bhou-, variant of base *bheu- "to grow, swell."

: : Kick the bucket: perhaps is from unrelated O.Fr. buquet "balance," a beam from which slaughtered animals were hung; perhaps reinforced by the notion of suicide by hanging.

: From the archives:

: KICK THE BUCKET - "A suicide who stands on a pail, slips at noose around his neck and kicks the pail, or bucket out from under him would be the logical choice for the origin of this old slang term meaning to die. However, some etymologists say the phrase comes from an entirely different source. Slaughtered hogs, their throats slit, used to be hung by their heels, which were tied to a wooden block and the rope then thrown over a pulley that hoisted the animals up. Because hoisting the block was similar to raising a bucket from a well, the wooden block came to be called a 'bucket,' and the dying struggles of the hogs kicking against this 'bucket' supposedly gave birth to the phrase. There are other theories, however, and this old expression - it may date back to the 16th century - must be marked of unknown origin." From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

I should like to complement the person immediately above, ESC perhaps - I am never sure here, for quoting from the archives rather than the boilerplate "[Go look it up yourself!]". It makes for a much friendlier site. I think when I finish here I may visit what the archives has relative to this phrase.

See also - the meaning and origin of Kick the bucket.

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