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The meaning and origin of the expression: A drop in the bucket

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A drop in the bucket

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  • 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."

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