A bucket is typically a watertight, vertical cylinder or truncated cone or square, with an open top and a flat bottom, attached to a semicircular carrying handle called the bail.[1][2]

A bucket is usually an open-top container. In contrast, a pail can have a top or lid and is a shipping container. In common usage, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Types and uses

There are many types of buckets;

  • A water bucket is used to carry, water
  • Household and garden buckets are used for carrying liquids and granular products
  • Elaborate ceremonial or ritual buckets in bronze, ivory or other materials are found in several ancient or medieval cultures and are sometimes known by the Latin for bucket, situla
  • Large scoops or buckets are attached to loaders and telehandlers for agricultural and earth-moving purposes
  • Crusher buckets attached to excavators are used for crushing and recycling material in the Construction Industry
  • A lunch box is sometimes called a lunch pail, or a lunch bucket.
  • Buckets can be re-purposed as seats, tool caddies, hydroponic gardens, chamber pots, "street" drums, or livestock feeders, or for long term food storage by survivalists[3]
  • Buckets are often used as children's toys to shape and carry sand on a beach or in a sandpit.

Shipping containers

As a shipping container, the word "pail" is a technical term for a bucket shaped package with a sealed top or lid which is used as a shipping container for chemicals and industrial products.[4]

English literature

The bucket has been used in many phrases and idioms in the English language.[5]

  • Kick the bucket: a derogatory term for someone's death
  • Drop the bucket on: implicating a person (Australian slang)
  • A drop in the bucket: a small, inadequate amount in relation to how much is requested or asked
  • Bucket list: a list of activities an individual wishes to undertake before death

Unit of measurement

As an obsolete unit of measurement, at least one source documents a bucket as being equivalent to 4 imperial gallons.[6]

See also


  1. "Bucket". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 9 September 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  2. Flexner, Stuart; Hauck, :epmpre, eds. (1993) [1987]. Random House Unabridged Dictionary p (hardcover) (second ed.). New York: Random House. p. 271. ISBN 0-679-42917-4.
  3. Durado, John. "Gamma Lids for Long Term Storage". Pyramid Reviews - Prepping for Life. Archived from the original on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  4. Soroka, W. Illustrated Glossary of Packaging Terminology (Second ed.). Institute of Packaging Professionals. Archived from the original on 2011-01-29.
  5. "The Science of Measurement: A Historical Survey". Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  1. Earth Day 2008 article, Fredericksburg, VA, Free Lance-Star Newspaper
  2. Warning
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