A drop in the bucket


What's the meaning of the phrase 'A drop in the bucket'?

A drop in the bucket is a very small and insignificant proportion of the whole.

What's the origin of the phrase 'A drop in the bucket'?

From the Bible, Isaiah 40:15 (King James Version):

“Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.”

‘A drop in the bucket’ is the predecessor of ‘a drop in the ocean’, which means the same thing, and is first found in a piece from The Edinburgh Weekly Journal, July 1802:

“The votes for the appointment of Bonaparte to be Chief Consul for life are like a drop in the ocean compared with the aggregate of the population of France.”

Trend of a drop in the bucket in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.