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Corn crib (Carl Mydans, 1936)


From Middle English crib, cribbe, from Old English crib, cryb, cribb, crybb (couch, bed; manger, stall), from Proto-Germanic *kribjǭ (crib, wickerwork), from Proto-Indo-European *grebʰ-, *gerbʰ- (bunch, bundle, tuft, clump), from *ger- (to turn, twist).

Cognate with Saterland Frisian creb (crib), West Frisian krêbe (crib), Dutch krib (crib, manger), German Krippe (rack, crib), Danish krybbe (crib), Icelandic krubba (crib). Doublet of crèche. The sense of ‘stealing, taking notes, plagiarize’ seems to have developed out of the verb.

The criminal sense may derive from the 'basket' sense, circa the mid 18th century, in that a poacher could conceal poachings in such a basket (see the 1772 Samuel Foote quotation). The cheating sense probably derives from the criminal sense.[1]


  • enPR: krĭb, IPA(key): /kɹɪb/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪb


crib (countable and uncountable, plural cribs)

  1. (US) A baby’s bed with high, often slatted, often moveable sides, suitable for a child who has outgrown a cradle or bassinet.
    Synonym: cot (British and Southern Hemisphere)
  2. (Britain) A bed for a child older than a baby.
    • 1848, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre.
      a day or two afterwards I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen Burns’s shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen was -- dead.
  3. (nautical) A small sleeping berth in a packet ship or other small vessel
  4. A wicker basket; compare Moses basket.
  5. A manger, a feeding trough for animals elevated off the earth or floor, especially one for fodder such as hay.
  6. The baby Jesus and the manger in a creche or nativity scene, consisting of statues of Mary, Joseph and various other characters such as the magi.
  7. A bin for drying or storing grain, as with a corn crib.
    • 1835, Washington Irving, chapter 35, in A Tour on the Prairies:
      I began to think of my horse. He, however, like an old campaigner, had taken good care of himself. I found him paying assiduous attention to the crib of Indian corn, and dexterously drawing forth and munching the ears that protruded between the bars.
  8. A small room or covered structure, especially one of rough construction, used for storage or penning animals.
  9. A confined space, as with a cage or office-cubicle
  10. (obsolete) A job, a position; (Britain) an appointment.
    • 1904, Forrest Crissey, Tattlings of a Retired Politician:
      He had seen so many lean years of faithful service when the enemy held the corner on all the official cribs that, now in the days of his party’s fatness and of his own righteous reward, the habit of good, honest hustling stuck to him, and he lined up an array of pulls and indorsements that made him swell with happiness every time he went over the list.
    • 1893,— Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk”.
      but if I have lost my crib and get nothing in exchange I shall feel what a soft Johnny I have been.
  11. A hovel, a roughly constructed building best suited to the shelter of animals but used for human habitation.
    • c. 1596–1599, Shakespeare, William, Henry IV, Part 2, act 3, scene 1, lines 9–12:
      Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs, / Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee, / And hushed with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber, / Than in the perfumed chambers of the great,
  12. (slang) One’s residence, house or dwelling place, or usual place of resort.
    • 1838, Dickens, Charles, chapter XIX, in Oliver Twist:
      Toby and me were over the garden-wall the night afore last, sounding the panels of the door and shutters. The crib's barred up at night like a jail; but there's one part we can crack, safe and softly.
    • 2003, 50 Cent; Dr. Dre; Mike Elizondo (lyrics), “In da Club”, in Get Rich or Die Tryin', performed by 50 Cent:
      My flow, my show brought me the dough / That bought me all my fancy things / My crib, my cars, my pools, my jewels.
  13. A boxy structure traditionally built of heavy wooden timbers, to support an existing structure from below, as with a mineshaft or a building being raised off its foundation in preparation for being moved; see cribbing.
  14. (usually in the plural) A collection of quotes or references for use in speaking, for assembling a written document, or as an aid to a project of some sort; a crib sheet.
  15. (obsolete) A minor theft, extortion or embezzlement, with or without criminal intent.
  16. (cribbage) The card game cribbage.
  17. (cribbage) The cards discarded by players and used by the dealer.
    • 1814 July, [Jane Austen], chapter XI, in Mansfield Park: [], volume II, London: [] T[homas] Egerton, [], OCLC 39810224, page 239:
      The cards were brought and Fanny played at cribbage with her aunt till bed-time; and as Sir Thomas was reading to himself, no sounds were heard in the room for the next two hours beyond the reckonings of the game—And that makes thirty-one, four in hand and eight in crib.
  18. (cryptography) A known piece of information corresponding to a section of encrypted text, that is then used to work out the remaining sections.
  19. (southern New Zealand) A small holiday home, often near a beach and of simple construction.
    Synonym: bach (northern New Zealand)
  20. (Australia, New Zealand) A packed lunch taken to work.
  21. (Canada) A small raft made of timber.
  22. (Britain, obsolete, thieves' cant) The stomach.
  23. (slang) A cheat sheet or past test used by students; crib sheet.

Derived terms[edit]



crib (third-person singular simple present cribs, present participle cribbing, simple past and past participle cribbed)

  1. (transitive) To place or confine in a crib.
  2. To shut up or confine in a narrow habitation; to cage; to cramp.
    • I. Taylor
      if only the vital energy be not cribbed or cramped
    • a. 1606, Shakespeare, William, Macbeth, act 3, scene 4, lines 23–24:
      But now I am cabin'd, cribbed, confined, bound in, / To saucy doubts and fears
  3. (transitive) To collect one or more passages and/or references for use in a speech, written document or as an aid for some task; to create a crib sheet.
    I cribbed the recipe from the Food Network site, but made a few changes of my own.
  4. (transitive, informal) To plagiarize; to copy; to cheat.
    • 1857, Hughes, Thomas, Tom Brown's School Days:
      He then proceeded to patch his tags together with the help of his Gradus, producing an incongruous and feeble result of eight elegiac lines, the minimum quantity for his form, and finishing up with two highly moral lines extra, making ten in all, which he cribbed entire from one of his books, beginning "O genus humanum," and which he himself must have used a dozen times before, whenever an unfortunate or wicked hero, of whatever nation or language under the sun, was the subject.
    • 2017 August 9, Bradley, Laura, “How Star Wars: The Last Jedi Will—and Won’t—Echo The Empire Strikes Back”, in Vanity Fair[2]:
      This subplot—as well as a few other threads that have been teased from the Star Wars saga’s next installment—prompts another question: just how much of this film’s plot will be cribbed from The Empire Strikes Back?
  5. (intransitive) To install timber supports, as with cribbing.
  6. (transitive, obsolete) To steal or embezzle, to cheat out of.
    • 1772, Foote, Samuel, The Nabob[3], published 1778, act 1, page 22:
      There are a brace of birds and hare, that I cribbed this morning out of a basket of game.
    • 1848, Dickens, Charles, “14”, in Dombey and Son:
      It was very easy, Briggs said, to make a galley-slave of a boy all the half-year, and then score him up idle; and to crib two dinners a-week out of his board, and then score him up greedy; but that wasn’t going to be submitted to, he believed, was it?
  7. (India) To complain, to grumble
    • 1957, L.P.Hartley, chapter XI, in Hireling, page 90:
      She calls on the neighbours, she's out half the time and doesn't answer the telephone, and when I start cribbing she just laughs.
  8. To crowd together, or to be confined, as if in a crib or in narrow accommodations.
    • 1661, Gauden, John, Anti Baal-Berith[4], page 35:
      [] who ſought to make the glory of the Nation and Church of England, which was ever Regal and Epiſcopal ſince it was Chriſtian, truckle under a Scotch Canopy, and to make Biſhops to crib in a Presbyterian trundle-bed; as much as Kingly Majeſtie, to be confounded with Democracy.
  9. (intransitive, of a horse) To seize the manger or other solid object with the teeth and draw in wind.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Michael Quinion (1996–2021), “Crib”, in World Wide Words.