Drop in the Bucket – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Ever noticed how certain phrases can make everyday situations sound more dramatic? Well, drop in the bucket is one of those phrases. It’s the wordy equivalent of a shrug and a sigh, a way to say, “It’s not that big of a deal.” So, let’s take a second and analyze this quirky idiom as I delve into its origin and show you a few sentence examples.

Meaning of Drop in the Bucket

Drop in the Bucket Idiom Origin Meaning

Picture this: you’ve got a massive, empty bucket, like the ones we used to play with in sandboxes, and you add a single droplet of water. Does it make a difference? Not really, right?

That’s the metaphorical essence of the phrase drop in the bucket. It is supposed to signify something so incredibly small or inconsequential that it simply doesn’t even register on the grand scale of things. It’s like adding a grain of sand to the Sahara Desert or a single hair to a cat—it’s hardly noticeable!

Most of the time, it’s used when someone is really overwhelmed by a problem. However, it’s a small issue compared to a much bigger one, so they’re wasting their energy being stressed about the minor thing.

Origin of the Phrase Drop in the Bucket

Like a lot of old-fashioned expressions, we owe this awesome phrase to the Bible. Yes, you read that right. The phrase drop in the bucket is more of a proverb, first used in the book of Isaiah sometime in the late 14th century.

But don’t worry, you won’t be struck by lightning for casually using it. The phrase has stood the test of time and still holds its original meaning today. The only difference is that it’s meant to be more lighthearted these days.

Synonyms for Drop in the Bucket

If you want to change things up a bit and use a different phrase, here are some alternatives that mean pretty much the same thing.

  • A drop in the ocean
  • A grain of sand in the desert
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff 
  • A needle in a haystack
  • Small in the grand scheme of things
  • A tiny fish in a big pond
  • A speck in the universe

Drop in the Bucket Examples in a Sentence

Drop in the Bucket Idiom Origin Meaning 1

A handful of full sentences should give you a really good idea of how you’re meant to use this phrase.

  • An extra five-dollar discount on the new fifteen-hundred-dollar iPhone? That’s like a drop in the bucket to me.
  • My gym trainer said that one cheat day is just a drop in the bucket. So, I took a bucket of fries and added a drop of ketchup. Balance!
  • Compared to the never-ending size of the universe, Earth is just a drop in the bucket.
  • After working there for ten years, my boss finally gave me a compliment, but it feels like a drop in the bucket at this point.
  • I have so many books; one more is just a drop in the bucket.

In the Grand Scheme of Things

Saying a drop in the bucket is really just a charming way to say it doesn’t matter. But now that you’re equipped with a deeper understanding of this idiomatic phrase, you can easily slip it into conversations! If you found my tips and points insightful, give my other idiom guides a whirl!

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: