An action that is really easy to do; something that’s simple to accomplish.
Example: We had planned to buy a few movies to watch on our brand new TV in order to test its quality. However, after hooking it up we quickly ran into a problem. The thing won’t turn on! But I think I know what the problem is, so there’s no need to worry. Fixing it will be like shooting fish in a barrel.
In other words, fixing the television will be a cinch.
Origin Of ‘Like Shooting Fish In a Barrel’
Just how easy is it to shoot fish in a barrel? I guess that depends on a few factors. First, how big is the barrel? They come in varying sizes. A traditional barrel, from what I’ve read, is large enough to hold around 42 gallons of water, which is fairly large. The more room the fish have to move around, the harder it would be to hit them.
Second, what size are the fish and also how many of them are swimming around in there? For example, if a barrel was filled to the brim with fish, then how hard could it be to hit one? On the other hand, a single small sized fish swimming around would be a more difficult target. In the former scenario, you wouldn’t even really have to aim.
But regardless of all this, evidently, “shooting fish in a barrel” was an idiom that was tested on a television show called MythBusters. As it turns out, fish are sensitive to changes in water pressure. So when a bullet from their gun entered the water at a high speed, even if the bullet itself missed the fish, the pressure shock wave it created was enough to kill it. Huh, sounds easy enough to me.
Of course, all of this was done under the assumption that the barrel would be filled with water. But what would happen if it was empty? I guess that would change things, wouldn’t it? It’d still probably be pretty easy, though.
Anyways, as for the origin of this phrase, they are unknown. The earliest I can 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.”
- 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.
Note: The above is an example of an idiom related to fish! Did you know we have a list of animal idioms 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 up top. Once you’re there, simply choose a letter to begin exploring!