crumb(n) a very small piece of food, especially of bread or cake, that has fallen off a larger piece

She stood up and brushed the crumbs from her sweater.

shred [usually plural] a small thin piece that has been torn or cut from something synonym scrap

shreds of paper

His jacket had been torn to shreds by the barbed wire.

Cut the orange peel into thin shreds.

can I say "shreds of food" or "crumbs of paper"?

What are the difference between "shred" and "crumb"?

1 Answer 1


"Crumbs" are the small, randomly shaped pieces of food that break off and are left behind. You don't get "crumbs" of paper.

A "shred" in the context of a small piece of something is a thin strip shape. That's why paper is referred to as having been "shredded", because it is normally torn, or cut into long, thin strips ("cross-cut shredders" are machines which cut into small pieces instead of strips, but as they are a kind of shredder, they maintain the name).

Small pieces of food are not usually long, thin strips, so "shred" isn't really the right word. You can have shreds of food, but they are normally deliberately made - for example, "shredded chicken" is a bit like pulled pork - it is made into strands that go with the grain of the meat. Also, When you use a kitchen tool to get zest from citrus fruit it normally comes off in small strips - a popular brand of marmalade that contains these is called 'Golden Shred'.

  • As the definition says, crumbs come from baked food that crumbles (bread, cookies etc.), not meat or vegetables. Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 17:15

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