a drop in the ocean

a drop in the ocean

Meaning:
– insignificant amount
– a very small amount compared to the amount needed
– unimportant amount
– a very small proportion of the whole

Examples:
1. Her cry was only a single drop in the ocean compared to the billions of tears shed by mourners after the war.
2. A hundred thousand may seem a lot but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the millions that need to be spent.
3. I always try to give money to charity but sometimes I feel it is just a drop in the ocean.
4. Our government’s sending a thousand tons of food, but that’s just a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.
5. My letter of protest was just a drop in the ocean.
6. I know twenty dollars is just a drop in the ocean, but if everyone gave that much it’d make a big difference.
7. A few thousand pounds is a drop in the ocean when you think about the millions that will be spent on this project.

Origin:
There is no valid and proper information available about the origin of this Idiom.

It is typically used in British English but may be used in other varieties of English too. ‘A drop in the bucket’ is the predecessor of ‘a drop in the ocean’, which means the same thing, and is first found in a piece from The Edinburgh Weekly Journal, July 1802.

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AuthorFred L. Curry writes on 22nd January 2014

In “Founding Myths, Stories That Hide out Patriotic past, Ray Raphael quotes George Washington saying to the Congress in September 1776 ‘The few who act upon the Principles of disinterestedness are, comparatively speaking, no more than a drop in the Ocean.’ citing Washington to John Hancock, September 24, 1776, in “The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript sources, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. (Washington, DC: United States Government printing Office, 1931-1944), 6:107-108.

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