Eat croissants in Paris, snack on bugs, learn to cook Greek food, see the Northern Lights, ride a mechanical bull or bungee jump? Most of us have goals and aspirations, things we have always dreamed of doing or hope we could experience in our lifetimes.

Therefore, many of us already have a mental bucket list, just without the formal label. But, what is the true bucket list meaning? How do we define it? Let’s get to the bottom of it.

Bucket List Meaning: What’s the Definition and What is it?

Bucket List Meaning:
What’s the Definition and What is it?

Bucket List Meaning

What is a bucket list? Simply put, it is a collection of goals, dreams and aspirations that you would like to accomplish within your lifetime. The basic meaning of a bucket list is to keep track of your goals and to take steps to achieving these goals in order to maximize the incredible experiences in your life.

Definition from


What is a Bucket List? Having goals and checking them off your list.

Bucket List Origin

There is some controversy over where the term bucket list actually originated. It definitely gained popularity after The Bucket List movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman was released in 2007. But, there is evidence that the term was used before that time (and I definitely had my bucket list years before the film’s release date).

The most common explanation for the origin is from the phrase “kick the bucket” which is believed to originate sometime in the Middle Ages when execution by hanging was common and the executioner would “kick the bucket”. You get the idea.

Annette White in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

What Goes on a Bucket List?

There is no right or wrong way of designing a bucket list, no one specific prescription. It is a personal journey between you and your aspirations. Each one should be different because it is meant to reflect what you most desire in your own life. For example, mine includes learning to surf, skydiving, and rappelling down a waterfall to appease my adventurous side. If you are not a thrill seeker, your list may be entirely different.

Annette White learning to surf in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica

The important part is to come up with items that are meaningful to you; ones that will inspire you to wake up each morning with a fire in your belly. Retiling the bathroom floor has no place on this list, nor does cleaning the cobwebs out of the garage. Save those for your weekly honey-dos. With that said, don’t worry if you didn’t make each aspiration earth shattering, or even travel related; sometimes the simplest goals are the most rewarding.

Giving a blood donation took less than an hour commitment, yet is still one of my most gratifying experiences. Also, don’t exclude anything just because you think it is too difficult or frightening; it is meant to stretch your comfort zone. Do the same for the things you think are too simple. As long as it has meaning to you it should be on your list, because even the smallest achievement can give us the feeling of a great accomplishment.

Annette White Hang gliding in the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Don’t Like the Term Bucket List?

Due to the bucket list meaning and definition, some people have some strong emotions about the term, mostly because it is a reminder of their own mortality. But, a bucket list is really about living life to the fullest with all the hours you have left on Earth. With that said, you don’t have to feel obligated to name your list a “bucket list” you can call it anything that makes you feel the warm fuzzies inside. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Life List
  • Dream List
  • Life’s Aspiration List
  • My Lifetime Goals
  • Things to Achieve in My Lifetime
  • My Life’s To Do
  • Meaningful Life Goals
  • Things to Conquer
  • Amazing Experiences To Be Had
  • The Life Plan
  • My Life’s Must Dos

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How to Make a Bucket List: 5 Easy Steps to Create a Great One
10 Incredible Ways a Bucket List Can Improve Your Life
My List: 1000+ Ideas for Your Bucket List
12 Bucket List Goals That Can Actually Save You Money
200 Bucket List Examples: 10,000 Things to do Before You Die
Life List: 100 Amazing Things to Do Before You Die
Couples Bucket List: 68 Fun Activities & Romantic Things to Do

Helpful Resources

My Book: Bucket List Adventures