Where Did Bucket List Come From?

by K-Dean

What’s on your bucket list?

To kick the bucket is a slang term that refers to dying. There are several theories as to where the idiom originated. The most popular one dates as far back as the Middle Ages. When someone was executed a noose would be tied around the person’s neck while he or she stood on an overturned bucket. When the bucket was kicked away the person was hanged. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) however has never found any documentation to support this theory.

Another theory, which the OED believes is more plausible, comes from 16th century England, where a beam or a yoke was also called a bucket. The bucket or beam was used to suspend pigs by their feet so they could be bled out after they were slaughtered. Sometimes the animal would struggle or spasm after death and kick the bucket or beam.

A third theory has to do with an old religious practice. In the Catholic religion, a bucket of holy water was brought from the church to the home where someone had died. The bucket of holy water was placed at the foot of the bed where the deceased was laid out and when family and friends came to view the body they would sprinkle the body with holy water.

A bucket list has come to describe a list of things you want to do before you die. The term “Bucket List” was made popular by the 2007 movie The Bucket List staring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. In the movie the two terminally ill men travelled around the world with a wish list of things to see and do before they died.

Many people believe that creating a bucket list channels your energies into accomplishing goals rather than wasting the time we have on Earth on things that don’t matter.


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