Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Scraping the bottom of the barrel is an idiom that probably originated in America. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom scraping the bottom of the barrel, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel means using something of very poor quality because that is all that is left; dealing with people who have substandard skills because they are the only ones available; settling for whatever one has access to rather than what one wants; or coming to the end of one’s cash reserve. The expression scraping the bottom of the barrel plays upon the imagery of accepting the dregs from a wine barrel or the least desirable item that remains, because that is all that is available at the bottom of a barrel. The expression most probably came into use because many goods were shipped in barrels in America during the 1700s and 1800s, before the advent of refrigeration and canning. Related phrases are scrape the bottom of the barrel, scrapes the bottom of the barrel, scraped the bottom of the barrel.


Auto dealers were yesterday “scraping the bottom of the barrel” after supply chain woes slashed vehicle inventories by up to 70 percent and left them unable to meet higher-than-expected demand. (The Tribune)

“At this point, we are not able to do anything that has the remote risk of losing money because we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel,” she said. (Post -Gazette)

As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on and I wait for my final vaccine dose, I have taken to scraping the bottom of the barrel for entertainment. (Daily Independent)

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