The phrase like shooting fish in a barrel is a simile that means something is easy to do. In other words, people use this saying to express how simple an activity is.
Example: Every time something breaks in our neighborhood, people usually call Harry to fix it. He’s the local handyman, so he has experience fixing all sorts of housing problems. At this point, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel for him.
Note: This phrase is an example of a simile, which is a type of metaphor. For details on the definition these words, see our metaphor examples page where you can learn all about them.
The Origin Of ‘Like Shooting Fish In a Barrel’
How easy is it to shoot fish in a barrel? Well, if we want to get specific, there are a few factors to consider. 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 would be: How many fish are in the barrel and what size are they? A barrel filled to the brim with large fish would make for easy targets. On the other hand, shooting one tiny fish would be far more challenging. Hmm… I wonder if the person who coined this phrase ever thought of these questions.
This Metaphor Was Tested
A television show called MythBusters put the “shooting fish in a barrel” metaphor to the test. The results were that, if a barrel was filled with water, it would indeed be easy to shoot the fish. Why? Because fish are sensitive to changes in water pressure, so when the bullet entered the water, the resulting shockwave it created was enough to kill the fish.
Anyways, as for 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.”
- The size of my apartment is relatively small, so keeping it nice and tidy is like shooting fish in a barrel.
- I’ve been playing guitar for years, so playing simple chords on it is a piece of cake.
- Whenever these rechargeable batteries run out of energy, it’s a walk in the park to charge them back up again.
- Solving word puzzles is as easy as pie for my grandpa, but I tend to struggle with them.
Tip: This phrase is a type of metaphor called a simile. It’s also related to animals. Speaking of, did you know we have a list of animal sayings that you can check out? It’s true!