Dull As Dishwater (or Ditchwater)

Meaning of Idiom ‘Dull as Dishwater’

To be as dull as dishwater (or ditchwater) is to be extremely boring and tedious.


Dishwater is the more common usage today but both dishwater and ditchwater can be used interchangeably in the idiom.

Examples Of Use

“The Professor’s lecture was as dull as dishwater.”

“I don’t know why people like this show. It’s as dull as ditchwater.”

“How did your date go,” asked Bob. “Dull as dishwater,” replied Tom.


The earliest form of this idiom is ‘dull as ditchwater.’ Ditches are long narrow trenches dug to contain water, usually along the side of roads. The water running in ditches tends to be full of dirt and debris, giving it a dirty dull color. As an idiom, it dates to the 1700’s.

The term dishwater existed since at least the 1400’s, and phrases such as “flat as dishwater” and “dead as dishwater” were used contemporaneously with “dull as ditchwater.” It would seem natural that “dull” would be coupled with dishwater, but up until the last half of the 1900’s, most Americans were still using the ditchwater variant, after which, dishwater quickly gained favor. This may have happened for no other reason that more Americans being familiar with dishwater than with ditchwater. As well, “dull as dishwater” is easier to say. (Source)

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