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
The Origin Of ‘Like Shooting Fish In a Barrel’
Examining this phrase creates several questions. The most obvious one is: “Just 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 is, the more room the fish has to swim around, making them tougher to hit.
Other factors to consider would be: What size are the fish, and how many are there? If a barrel is filled to the brim with big fish, then hitting them would be easy. On the other hand, hitting one small fish would be hard. It’s difficult to say what set of circumstances the originator of this phrase had in mind.
Anyways, let’s talk about how old this saying is. 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.”
This Idiom Was Tested On MythBusters
The idiom “shooting fish in a barrel” was put to the test on a television show called MythBusters. As it turns out, fish are sensitive to changes in water pressure. So when the gun was fired and the bullet entered the water, it created a pressure shock wave and that alone was enough to kill the fish.
Of course, all of this was done under the assumption that the barrel would be filled with water. But what would happen if the barrel was empty? Well, I guess the fish would be dead then, so hitting them would still be quite simple.
- 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.
- 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!