If you listen to English conversation, you may hear the term ‘drop in the bucket.’ But what do people mean when the use this phrase? We will take a look at the meaning of the term, where it came from and how it can best be used in conversation.
Drop in the Bucket
Drop in the Bucket Meaning
The meaning behind the phrase ‘drop in the bucket’ refers to an action which has very little effect in the scheme of things.
Origin of the idiomatic phrase
This common idiom has been around since biblical times, and comes from a passage which is taken from the bible that reads ‘ Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance.’ The term became popular as an idiom in the 1300s.
“Drop in the Bucket” Examples
You would use the phrase ‘drop in the bucket’ when talking about something that has taken place that is insignificant or does not make a huge difference to the overall picture. A good example of its use might be ‘Your donation of £10 was really kind, but it was really only a drop in the bucket compared to the £1 million we need to raise.’
- To buy an expensive car is not just a drop in the bucket for her.
- This business is just a drop in the bucket of what he owns.
- The amount being spent on scientific research is a drop in the bucket.
- For a millionaire, the cost of a luxury car is a drop in the bucket.
- Well, my knowledge in the field is but a drop in the bucket.
- Third World debt is so massive that recent pledges to reduce or forgive it are just a drop in the bucket.
If you would like to know how the term ‘drop in the bucket’ would fit into an every day conversation, you can read the following examples to give you more of an idea of how the phrase works.
- Person 1: “John needs 5000 cans of food for the food bank.”
- Person 2: “I can buy ten but that’s really just a drop in the bucket.”
- Person 1: “I gave Adam five minutes of my time for him to talk about his problems.”
- Person 2: “Did he need a lot more than that?”
- Person 1: “It was only a drop in the bucket compared to how much time he really needed.”
Other Ways to Say the Phrase
There are other ways you might express the meaning of the term ‘drop in the bucket.’ Here are some examples of other ways you can say the phrase.
- Drop in the ocean
- A little gesture
- Mere pittance