Like Shooting Fish In a Barrel


The phrase like shooting fish in a barrel is a simile that means something is easy to do.

Example: Every time something breaks around here—be it a door, a fence, some kind of plumbing issue, or whatever—Harry can always fix it. I was curious how he got to be such a handyman, so I asked him about it and he told me: “I have a lot of experience, that’s all. I’ve been repairing things for as long as I can remember, so fixing things is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Synonyms: a piece of cake, a walk in the park, as easy as pie, it’s not brain surgery, it’s not rocket science

Common Sayings: like shooting fish in a barrel

The Origin Of ‘Like Shooting Fish In a Barrel’

Examining this phrase creates several questions. The most obvious one is: “How easy is it to shoot fish in a barrel?” The answer depends on a few factors. For example, how big is the barrel? A traditional barrel is large enough to hold 42 gallons of water. The bigger the barrel, the more space the fish would have to move around, making them harder to hit.

Other factors to consider would be: How many fish are in the barrel, and what size are they? If a barrel is filled to the brim with big fish, it would be easy to hit them. On the other hand, if there’s only one tiny fish swimming around in there, that would be much more challenging. It’s hard to say what kind of circumstances the originator of this phrase had in mind.

Anyways, let’s talk about how old this saying is. The earliest I could find it in print is from the Bunbury Herald newspaper, 1912:

“Up to this time it had all been easy as shooting fish in a barrel; but after a while No. 9 would come pounding down from Huntington, and then I knew there would be several kinds of things to pay.”

This Idiom Was Tested On MythBusters

The idiom “shooting fish in a barrel” was put to the test on a television show called MythBusters. What were the results? As it turns out, fish are sensitive to changes in water pressure. So when they fired a gun into the barrel, the bullet created a pressure shock wave when it entered the water and that alone was enough to kill any fish.

Of course, their tests were done under the assumption that the barrel would be filled with water. But what would happen if the barrel was empty? Well, I guess if there were no water, the fish would already be dead, so either way, hitting them would easy indeed.

Example Sentences

  • I’ve studied hard for this upcoming test at school, so I’m fully prepared. Passing the test will be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Synonym Examples:

  • Putting the puzzle together was as easy as pie.
  • I’ve always found the chore of doing laundry to be a walk in the park.
  • Finding a recipe for chicken salad is a piece of cake.

Note: The above is an example of an idiom related to fish! Did you know we have a list of animal sayings with others like it? So check that out, if you’re interested. Or, if you don’t want to go there, you can find more common sayings by using the menu at the top. Once you’re there, simply choose a letter to begin exploring!

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