Word of the Day

bucket list


a list of the things you want to do before you reach a certain age, or before you die

Origin and usage

The term bucket list is a relatively new one, popularized by a movie of the same name starring American actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman released in the early 21st century. Bucket list comes from the phrase ‘to kick the bucket’ which is a figure of speech meaning ‘to die’.


The phrase bucket list is used to describe things a person wants to do or accomplish before they die. Sometimes, items on a bucket list can be rather ordinary, like travelling to an exotic destination or witnessing a major sporting event; sometimes, bucket list items are a bit more ambitious, like learning to pilot a jet or climbing Mount Everest.

People often create a bucket list as they near retirement age, striving to make time to do some of the things they may have put off in their younger years due to work or family commitments. While it’s become common practice for pensioners to pursue their bucket list dreams, a growing number of them are ending up in hospital with serious injuries brought on by these activities.

Several recent campaigns in the UK and elsewhere have targeted baby boomers who take up risky activities like motorbiking as a way to recapture their youth. These schemes are designed to remind people of the increased chance of serious injury that can occur in pursuit of checking off an item from your bucket list.


“The trend of older people getting injured from physical challenges or over-reaching themselves around the home has been termed the bucket list problem by charities, said Ms. Siganporia, of solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp, who is a trustee with the Spinal Injuries Association.”

Daily Express. 24 December 2017: ‘Bucket list warning: Baby boomers suffering serious injuries chasing dreams.’
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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  • Sorry but I do not agree that it was coined by the writers of the movie as indicated above. It has been used previously in language during the 1980’s and 90’s so Im sure it was well in use before the movie.

  • Thank you for your comment, Mick. The first recorded use of the term ‘bucket list’ is dated by the Oxford English Dictionary to 2006 and reads:

    [after to kick the bucket at Phrases; popularized by the title of the film The Bucket List (2007): see quot. 2006] colloquial a list of things that a person hopes to experience or achieve during his or her lifetime.

    So although it may have been in use before then, there is no record of this use. In fact the post says ‘popularized by a movie of the same name’, acknowledging that the term may have been in circulation before the film brought it wider currency.

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