Drop in the Bucket

Meaning of Idiom ‘Drop in the Bucket’

drop in the bucket is a very small and unimportant amount; an amount that is too small and much less than needed. 1Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.,2Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.,3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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Examples Of Use

“The fundraiser did bring in some money but it’s a drop in the bucket.”

“The company makes a lot of their work in impoverished countries but that is just a drop in the bucket compared to their exploitation of workers.”

Drop in the bucket idiom meaning


The phrase comes from the Bible, Isaiah 40:15. This translation appeared as early as 1382 in John Wycliffe’s translations of the Bible, and also in the 1611 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 takes up the isles as fine dust.”

Here, a drop of a bucket can be taken as meaning the same as a drop from a bucket. However, a drop on or in a bucket may be accurate if taken to mean that a small drop will add nothing to the weight of a vessel. Whether the drop comes from the bucket or is added to the bucket, the passage means much the same, describing how insignificant the nations are to God.

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