What's the meaning of "hit somebody like a bucket of cold water"? I couldn't find this idiom (?) in my dictionaries; I just found "cold water" means "disapproval". But I don't think it would have the same meaning in this idiom.


  • The bad news hit me like a bucket of cold water.

  • My presence will hit them like a bucket of cold water.

  • 1
    How do you feel when a bucket of cold water is poured upon you? – user140086 Nov 20 '15 at 18:02
  • I would feel shocked or it might make me more alert. – user144908 Nov 20 '15 at 18:12
  • This idiom probably comes from last year's Ice Bucket Challenge. – Joe Dark Nov 20 '15 at 18:12
  • Yes, that's how you would feel. – user140086 Nov 20 '15 at 18:17
  • @Joe Dark Or perhaps not {Google Ngrams}. Assuming we know when (if) it achieved the status of an idiom. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 20 '15 at 18:18

"It was a bucket of cold water on my feelings" can be considered a figure of speech. Your sentence "it hit me like a bucket of cold water", however, stands literally for what it is: a comparison, you felt as if someone had thrown a bucket of cold water on you. Using "like" changed a figure of speech into a comparison.

  • I don't agree. Similes are figures of speech. 'It hit me like a bucket ['s prior contents] of cold water' obviously doesn't imply 'exactly like' that water. That would require a bucketful of equally cold, dense, wetting, viscous, colourless, odourless ... fluid hitting the person. There are one or more points of similarity in a simile (and an awful lot of differences). 'He's like a tiger.' – Edwin Ashworth Nov 20 '15 at 18:13
  • Yes, I think it is the answer. – user140086 Nov 20 '15 at 18:24

The meaning is similar to the saying "throw cold water on" and means that the news surprised and discouraged you, as something you probably didn't expect:

  • To express misgivings about or disapproval of; discourage.

The Free Dictionary

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    Yes, cold water is cold and surprising. :) – user140086 Nov 20 '15 at 18:25
  • Incorrect. Even winning the Nobel Prize could hit you "like a bucket of cold water" if you were in a literal or figurative stupor when the water hit. The expression has nothing to do with "cold water" as a metaphor for disapproval or discouragement. – Hot Licks Nov 20 '15 at 20:30

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