kick the bucket

Idioms & Phrases

kick the bucket

Die, as in All of my goldfish kicked the bucket while we were on vacation. This moderately impolite usage has a disputed origin. Some say it refers to committing suicide by hanging, in which one stands on a bucket, fastens a rope around one's neck, and kicks the bucket away. A more likely origin is the use of bucket in the sense of "a beam from which something may be suspended" because pigs were suspended by their heels from such beams after being slaughtered, the term kick the bucket came to mean "to die." [Colloquial; late 1700s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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