Dictionary related…..”Bucket list”

Investigations into “Bucket list” by Emem

In chatting online with a student in spring quarter 2015 about possible entries for and possibly, strangely missing entries in NeD we got to talking about The Rock. In our email correspondence, the student wrote:


“Guarding it [The Rock] really is a pain haha, definitely wasn’t on my bucket list and I still don’t understand why anyone would put it as theirs but I was vice president of an organization and the president really wanted to do it so I joined her for the overnight shift. (2 April 2015; bold added)”


I hadn’t heard “bucket list” before, as far as I knew, but thought I got what it meant from the context: a big, long to do list of sorts.  But, of course, I had to double check. Here’s what I wrote and found out………


What’s a bucket list? So, I haven’t heard that before, as far as I know. Probably not a big surprise there, given my age probably. Anyway, from the context, I assumed it probably means something like a big long list of things to do. But I looked it up in urbandicationary.com (Links to an external site.) and found that I’m not quite right.


http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bucket+list (Links to an external site.)


So the definition that I’m guessing fits best to your usage is:


“A list of things to do before you die. Comes from “kicked the bucket”.

I need to remember to add skydiving to my bucket list.

by CharlieD (Links to an external site.) December 18, 2007″


Makes sense. Not exactly a to do list, but kind of the ultimate to do list. (Of course, now I’m wondering where does “kicked the bucket” come from).


But there are actually different definitions, like:


“A type of data structure used in database design

Our project will be a user generated database full of bucket lists for different cities, universities, and areas of your choosing.
by Reticulum12 (Links to an external site.) November 02, 2012 ”


I’m sure you didn’t mean “bucket list” in this sense. 😉 I’ll have to ask Matt [Taylor, IT Director of the MMLC] about this meaning.


So, now I looked up “kick the bucket” in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). That’s pretty fascinating. The entry eventually led me to the the definition 2 of bucket n. (noun), which seems (for now) the most relevant:




Seems “to kick the bucket” likely dates from 1888 or so (you can never exactly pinpoint these things), and has its origins in “1888   N.E.D. at Bucket,   Mod. Newspaper. The beam on which a pig is suspended after he has been slaughtered is called in Norfolk, even in the present day, a ‘bucket’. Since he is suspended by his heels, the phrase to ‘kick the bucket’ came to signify to die.” The source here, coincidentally also N.E.D (!), is the New English Dictionary from 1884-1933 (10 volumes plus 1 supplement).


But later in the OED entry, it talks about the 2007 movie The Bucket List, which is likely where “bucket list” comes from.


  bucket list n.  [after to kick the bucket at Phrases; popularized by the title of the film The Bucket List (2007): see quot. 2006.] colloq. a list of things that a person hopes to experience or achieve during his or her lifetime.

2006   UPI Newswire (Nexis) 29 June   Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are set to star in ‘The Bucket List’, about two cancer patients… The two terminally ill men make a wish list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket—called the bucket list—then take a road trip.

2009   N.Y. Times (National ed.) 5 Apr. (Travel section) 12/4   Maureen..had wanted to visit the Galápagos Islands for years. ‘It was on my bucket list,’ she said.

2011   C. R. Parker Next Phase of Life xxviii. 202   She was about to scratch off one goal on her bucket list.

Cool, huh? Well, thanks for using that idiom “bucket list”! It was certainly fun for me! 🙂