Has someone ever told you they love you “a bushel and a peck”? Did you know what they meant—whether they were saying they love you a whole bunch or care for you only a little? Spoiler alert: It’s a good thing! Keep reading to discover the definition of this common idiomatic expression.
What Does Bushel and a Peck Mean?
Simply put, the idiomatic phrase bushel and a peck means “a lot.” It’s used to describe a large amount or great deal of something. As the introduction to this post alluded, it’s typically used to emphasize how much a person loves someone—and is often given as the answer to the question: How much do you love me? In the same vein, it can also be used to describe how much a person likes or loves a place or thing.
Here are some example sentences using the saying bushel and a peck:
- Before I head out the door to go to work in the morning, I give my husband a kiss and tell him that I love him a bushel and a peck.
- I really liked the meal I had at the new restaurant my friend and I tried last night. When she asked what I thought of it, I told her I enjoyed it a bushel and a peck.
- Every night when I tuck my daughter into bed, she asks me how much I love her, and I hold my arms out wide and exclaim, “A bushel and a peck!”
Although it is not commonly said in this way, the expression could be used to express wanting a lot of something. Say, if you were asked how many scoops of ice cream you wanted, you could respond cheekily with “a bushel and a peck.” (Though, you’d have to hope the scooper knew you were speaking figuratively and not literally; keep reading to find out why!)
You may also hear or see two variations of the expression, with a few words added on for extra emphasis: bushel and a peck and some in a gourd and bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. The latter reflects song lyrics that helped make the phrase popular, which brings us to the history of the saying.
The History of the Expression
It’s not entirely clear when exactly the saying was first used to express loving someone a great deal. However, it was certainly in use in the middle of the 20th century and only became more popular around this time, when the songwriter Frank Loesser penned a song titled “A Bushel and a Peck” for the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls. The show opened in November of 1950. After that, many artists recorded versions of the song, from Perry Como and Betty Hutton to the Andrews Sisters to Doris Day. It is perhaps Doris Day’s version that is most well known, although it didn’t perform as well on the charts when first released as recordings of it by other artists.
The phrase is repeated over and over in the song’s lyrics. Here is an excerpt:
I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck
A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap and I’m talkin’ in my sleep
About you, about you
‘Cause I love you a bushel and a peck
You bet your purdy neck I do
A doodle oodle oh
A doodle oodle oodle oh doo
While we don’t know precisely when the expression was first used, we do know how it came to be. Both a bushel and a peck are forms of measurement. And, you guessed it, they’re large quantities! They’re both dry volume units of measurement, mostly used in agriculture. If you head out to an apple orchard for picking, you might be given a bushel basket or see peck on the bag you’re given to fill, for example. You might encounter a peck or half-peck bag of apples at the farmers market, too, and occasionally at the grocery store.
A bushel equals 32 dry quarts, or eight dry gallons. A peck equals eight quarts, or a quarter of a bushel. One bushel equals four pecks.
What Is an Idiom?
Bushel and a peck is an idiom. An idiom is an expression with an intended meaning that can’t fully be understood just by looking at the words that comprise it. These phrases have a figurative rather than literal meaning. Even if you’ve never heard the term idiom, you have most likely heard many idiomatic expressions. Here are just a few of the most common idioms used today:
You’re in hot water.
His boss gave him the ax.
It’s time to face the music.
You’ve hit the nail on the head.
If you took the first example literally, you’d think it was describing a person standing in a bathtub full of hot water, perhaps. But the expression is actually used to describe a person who’s in trouble. Likewise, rather than literally being handed a tool for chopping wood, if you get the ax from your boss, it means you’re getting fired. It’s time to face the music means that it’s time to come to terms with the consequences of your actions. And when someone has hit the nail on the head, they’ve gotten an answer exactly right or done something exactly as it should have been done.
Of course, bushel and a peck can be taken and used literally, as a bushel and peck are units of measurement. If you were packaging up apples or grapes at a farm, for instance, you might use the saying to convey an exact quantity of the fruits to another packer. However, you wouldn’t really be using it as a phrase but merely as a literal description. When used as an idiomatic expression, the saying has a figurative meaning. In this instance, while it’s used to convey a whole lot of something, it doesn’t mean an actual, measurable, tangible amount.
Synonyms for a Bushel and a Peck
As you’ve discovered, bushel and a peck means “a lot” or a “great deal or great amount.” There are, well, lots more ways to say a lot!
- Bunch or bunches
- And the list goes on…
If you want to tell someone you love them a great deal, you could substitute any of the words above for a bushel and a peck. For example, “I love you tons!”
The idiomatic expression bushel and a peck means “a lot.” It is usually used to express how much a person loves someone, or how much they love something. Bushel and peck are units of measurement. On their own, each is considered a large quantity; taken together, a bushel and a peck are certainly a great amount, hence the expression. While we don’t know when it was first used figuratively, it became very popular in the 1950s after a song featuring the phrase was used in the musical Guys and Dolls.