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From Middle English crome, cromme, crumme, crume, from Old English cruma (crumb, fragment), from Proto-Germanic *krumô, *krūmô (fragment, crumb), from Proto-Indo-European *grū-mo- (something scraped together, lumber, junk; to claw, scratch), from *ger- (to turn, bend, twist, wind). The b is excrescent, as in limb and climb; and appeared in the mid 15th century to match crumble and words like dumb, numb, thumb. Cognate with Dutch kruim (crumb), Low German Krome, Krume (crumb), German Krume (crumb), Danish krumme (crumb), Swedish dialectal krumma (crumb), Swedish inkråm (crumbs, giblets), Icelandic krumur (crumb), Latin grūmus (a little heap).



crumb (plural crumbs)

  1. A small piece which breaks off from baked food (such as cake, biscuit or bread).
    The pigeons were happily pecking at crumbs of bread on the ground.
    • Bible, Luke xvi. 21
      desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table
    • 1892, Walter Besant, chapter II, in The Ivory Gate: A Novel, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, OCLC 16832619:
      At twilight in the summer there is never anybody to fear—man, woman, or cat—in the chambers and at that hour the mice come out. They do not eat parchment or foolscap or red tape, but they eat the luncheon crumbs.
  2. (figuratively) A bit, small amount.
    a crumb of comfort
  3. The soft internal portion of bread, surrounded by crust.
    • Old song
      Dust unto dust, what must be, must; / If you can't get crumb, you'd best eat crust.
  4. A mixture of sugar, cocoa and milk, used to make industrial chocolate.
  5. (slang) A nobody, worthless person.
  6. (slang) A body louse (Pediculus humanus).


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crumb (third-person singular simple present crumbs, present participle crumbing, simple past and past participle crumbed)

  1. To cover with crumbs.
  2. To break into crumbs or small pieces with the fingers; to crumble.
    to crumb bread

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