bucket list

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From bucket +‎ list.[1]

Sense 1 (“list of tasks arising during a meeting”) may allude to a notional bucket in which tasks to be dealt with later are placed. Sense 2 (“list of things to accomplish before one’s death”) refers to kick the bucket (to die), bucket in this sense possibly referring to a beam to which a pig is hung by its heels after it has been slaughtered (possibly from Old French buquet (balance; trebuchet)).[2] It was coined by the American and British screenwriter Justin Zackham in 1999 when he drew up “Justin’s List of Things to Do before I Kick the Bucket” which he shortened to “Justin’s Bucket List”. The first item on his list was to have a screenplay produced at a major Hollywood studio. After a few years, it occurred to him that the notion of a “bucket list” could be the basis for a film, so he wrote a screenplay about two dying men racing to complete their own bucket lists with the time they had left, which became the film The Bucket List (2007).[3] The term was then popularized by the film.[1]



bucket list (plural bucket lists) (idiomatic)

  1. A list of tasks arising during a meeting that are put aside to be dealt with later. [from late 20th c.]
    Coordinate term: to-do list
    • 1978, James D. Anderson, Ezra Earl Jones, “The Primary Task of Ministry”, in The Management of Ministry, San Francisco, Calif.: Harper & Row, →ISBN, page 151:
      A "bucket" list is simply a formal procedure for recording items of concern that arise during work on other agenda items.
    • [1990, Eric M. Meyers, Carol Myers, James F. Strange, “Introduction”, in Excavations at the Ancient Synagogue of Gush Ḥalav (Meiron Excavation Project; V), Winona Lake, Ind.: [F]or the American Schools of Oriental Research by Eisenbrauns, →ISBN, page 1:
      The figures and section drawings contain many of the most important locus numbers. We are not publishing a complete bucket list.
      Apparently used to refer to a comprehensive list.]
    • 1997, Suzan L[inn] Jackson, “Getting Started”, in The ISO14001 Implementation Guide: Creating an Integrated Management System, New York, N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 226:
      As you go through each step during the session, keep a "bucket list" of items that will need followup action
    • 2004, Tom Kendrick, “Meeting Execution”, in The Project Management Tool Kit: 100 Tips and Techniques for Getting the Job Done Right, 2nd edition, New York, N.Y.: Amacom, American Management Association, published 2010, →ISBN, page 87:
      Focus on only one issue at a time. Whenever a new issue arises, don't ignore it, but don't allow the meeting to get distracted from the current topic. Always record each new issue on a posted "parking lot" or "bucket list" in the meeting room.
  2. A list of things to accomplish before one's death. [from late 20th c.]
    Coordinate terms: dream list, wish list
    • 2006 September 2, Peterson Gonzaga, “Reiner gets animated in ‘Everybody’s Hero’”, in Herald News, West Paterson, N.J.: Gannett, →ISSN, →OCLC, page D4, columns 3–4:
      Q: What projects are you working on now and in the near future? [Rob Reiner] I'm hoping by the end of October to be shooting a film I've been working on called "The Bucket List," starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. [] They find out they are terminal. They know they don't have much longer to live. It's about working out the issues you need to work out before you die. [] Q: Do you have your own "bucket list"? [Reiner] You know, I don't. I've gone on with my life always trying to do positive things and make things better and the world better. [] I want to see my kids do well, but that's not a "bucket list"
    • 2009 August 10, Robert Deeter, chapter 8, in Bullseye: Journal of a Black Hawk Pilot, Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, →ISBN, page 102:
      I'm a helicopter pilot, not a writer. Still, it's been a dream of mine to someday write a book. It's ranked near the top on my list of things I want to do someday, my "bucket list," if you will.
    • 2010, Annalisa Daughety, chapter 23, in Love is Grand (A Walk in the Park; 3), Uhrichsville, Oh.: Barbour Publishing, →ISBN, page 168:
      "They told me hiking down into the canyon was on their bucket list." / She nodded. "I hear that all the time. People all over the world have the Grand Canyon on their bucket list." / Jake frowned. "I don't have a bucket list."
    • 2014, Lara Krupika, “How to Use this Book”, in Bucket List Living for Moms: Becoming a More Adventurous Parent, Cork, County Cork: BookBaby, →ISBN:
      The beauty of bucket lists is that just as they represent us and our dreams, like us they also grow and change. You will be surprised once you have begun the bucket list journey at how opportunities spring up around you. New ideas beg to be added to your list. Even the act of completing a bucket list goal can be the source of further exploration.
    1. (by extension) A list of things to accomplish before a certain deadline or in a certain time period.
      a winter bucket list
  3. (computer science) A data structure containing buckets used in a hashing algorithm. [from mid 20th c.]
    • 1960 July 25, J. C. Olney, Feat, an Inventory Program for Information Retrieval (FN-4018), Santa Monica, Calif.: System Development Corporation; quoted in Mary Elizabeth Stevens, “Operational Considerations”, in Automatic Indexing: A State-of-the-Art Report (National Bureau of Standards Monograph; 91), Washington, D.C.: National Bureau of Standards, United States Department of Commerce, 30 March 1965, reissued February 1970, →OCLC, page 170:
      Using a bucket list structure [], the program sorts each incoming word serially, constructing a list within each of 256 buckets for good words of a given alphabetic range []
    • 1975, Terrence W. Pratt, “Data”, in Programming Languages: Design and Implementation, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, →ISBN, page 83:
      In place of direct storage in the block we might substitute pointers to linked bucket lists of the elements having the same hash addresses. After hashing and retrieving the pointer to the appropriate bucket list, we search the list for , and if not found, add it to the end of the list.

Related terms[edit]



  1. 1.0 1.1 bucket list, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2013; bucket list, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ bucket, n.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023.
  3. ^ Ben Zimmer (2015 May 29) “The Origins of ‘Bucket List’”, in The Wall Street Journal[1], New York, N.Y.: Dow Jones & Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 25 October 2016.

Further reading[edit]