In Amazon S3, Google Cloud storage, etc., they refer to containers that hold data as buckets.

I was curious where this originated from. The closest I could find was maybe bit bucket maybe referring to the fact you can store anything in it. Any other insights as to the origin would be appreciated.

2 Answers 2


It appears the the term bucket is just a generally accepted metaphor:

In computing, the term bucket can have several meanings. It is used both as a live metaphor, and as a generally accepted technical term in some specialised areas. A bucket is most commonly a type of data buffer or a type of document in which data is divided into regions.

Bit bucket:

This is a humorous but common phrase. Something goes into the bit bucket when it is deleted, generally irreversibly and quite often wrongly, such as files or emails that just disappear.

It has been commonly suggested that this usage dates from the days when punched cards and/or punched tape were common. Card and paper-tape punches each had a receptacle for the chips punched from the cards or tape to create the holes (rectangular in a card, round in a paper tape), which often looked like a bucket and was known by this name. By analogy it was jokingly suggested that the CPU, which in those days was an equipment rack of similar size to a large peripheral unit, contained a similar receptacle for lost data.


  • Thanks for the answer (although I posted the same link in my answer). I am starting to suspect bucket originated from hashing and spread from there. But you are right that it is just a metaphor for a container to hold data.
    – Jesse Good
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 20:56

I'm going out on a limb here, but I am starting to suspect that the term "bucket" originated with Hans Peter Luhn. Excerpt from here:

In early 1953, Luhn had written an internal IBM memo in which he suggested putting information into “buckets” in order to speed up a search. Let’s say you wanted to look up a telephone number in a database and find out whom it belonged to. Given the 10-digit number 314–159–2652, a computer could simply search through the list one number at a time until it found the relevant entry. In a database of millions of numbers, though, this could take a while.

Also from here:

A subdivision of a data file, serving as the unit within which records are located. Buckets are specially used in connection with hashing techniques, and with indexing techniques (see index) where index entries point to groups of records. In these circumstances, hashing or indexing will yield the address of the start of the bucket; the location for storage or retrieval within the bucket will then be found by searching.

It makes sense to me that to lookup a bucket, some type of hashing/indexing technique is used, so that is why they are called buckets for cloud storage as well.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.