What Does Empty Barrels Make the Most Noise Mean?

Empty Barrels Make the Most Noise Meaning

Definition: People with the least knowledge are the most outspoken about their opinions.

Other variations of these phrase are empty vessels make the most noise, empty minds make the most noise, empty cans make the most noise, empty vessels make the loudest sounds, etc.

Origin of Empty Barrels Make the Most Noise

Imagine someone beating a drum. Drums are completely hallowed, and the sound is loud and reverberates with booming volume. This is the idea behind the expression.

The idiom compares the hollow inside of an object like a drum (or ship or can) and its loud sound with the empty thoughts of an ignorant person and his or her talkative nature. People typically use this expression when they want to discredit someone who is making their opinion widely known.

The exact origin of this idiom is unknown. However, digital records show that this expression started appearing in writing somewhere around the year 1850.

Examples of Empty Barrels Make the Most Noise

empty barrels make the most noise proverb In this example, two friends are talking about the man’s new job.

Neha: How are things with your new job?

Tyrese: Not great. One of the managers decided that she didn’t like me, and she won’t stop talking about all of my faults.

Neha: That’s too bad, but I’m sure everyone else likes you!

Tyrese: That may be true, but her opinion is the only one I ever hear.

Neha: Don’t worry about it. Empty vessels make the most noise. I’m sure she’s just an idiot.

empty barrels make the most noise proverb In this example, two office workers are talking about a problem that one of them is having at home.

Barry: One of the kids at school is bullying my daughter.

Rachel: Physically or verbally?

Barry: Verbally. He keeps spreading awful gossip about her.

Rachel: Well, empty barrels make the most noise. I bet he is just stupid, and therefore jealous of your daughter.

Barry: That may be true, but it doesn’t make it alright.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about a repeal bill.

  • “Empty vessels make the most noise”, the saying goes. And one thing’s for sure — this week has been a noisy one. –Telegraph

This excerpt is from an article about contemporary art in Detroit.

  • Scott Hocking, inspired by graffiti that said “empty vessels make the most noise,” used an oily rope to link several used shopping carts for this installation. –New York Times

Summary

The phrase empty vessels make the most noise is an expression that means people who are noisy and talk the most about their opinions are often the most ignorant.