Word Confusion: Crumble versus Crumple

Posted April 17, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This one just makes me want to…I dunno…crumble like an Oreo…crumple in a heap… Hmmmm, I suspect I’d prefer the crumple if only because all my bits would still hang together. Unlike that poor cookie, all those little crumbs waiting to be swept up off the floor.

The key in determining whether you should use crumble or crumple is flaking versus rumply.

  • Crumble is either a crumby sort of topping as a noun. As a verb, it’s all about deterioration through time.
  • Crumple, on the other hand, is about changing shape through folding, bending, creasing, wrinkling, ahem, fainting.

C’mon authors, help me keep my cookies down…*grin*…!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Crumble Crumple
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: crumple

Image by James Petts from London, England [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A crumbly crumble.

Image by Julo, via Wikimedia Commons.

Crumpling, or folding, in on itself.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Past tense or past participle: crumbled
Gerund or Present participle: crumbling

Noun 1; Verb, intransitive & transitive 2

Past tense or past participle: crumpled
Gerund or Present participle: crumpling

[British] Mixture of flour and butter that is rubbed to the texture of breadcrumbs and cooked as a topping for fruit

  • A dessert made with such a topping and a particular fruit

Verb, intransitive:
Break or fall apart into small fragments, especially over a period of time as part of a process of deterioration

[As adjective] Crumbling

  • [Of an organization, relationship, or structure] Disintegrate gradually over a period of time

Verb, transitive:
Break or fall apart into small fragments, especially over a period of time as part of a process of deterioration

  • Cause something to break apart into small fragments
Crushed fold, crease, or wrinkle

Verb, intransitive:
Crush something, typically paper or cloth so that it becomes creased and wrinkled

  • Become bent, crooked, or creased
  • [Of a person] Suddenly flop down to the ground
  • [Of a person’s face] Suddenly sag and show an expression of desolation
  • Suddenly lose force or effectiveness


Verb, transitive:
Crush something, typically paper or cloth so that it becomes creased and wrinkled

[As adjective] crumpled

To press, bend, or crush out of shape

To cause to collapse

Mom makes the best rhubarb crumble!

Carl fondly remembered the apple crumble his mom used to make.

Verb, intransitive:
The plaster started to crumble long ago.

He knew he had to do something about their crumbling ancestral home.

The party’s fragile unity began to crumble.

The walls in that old house are crumbling.

The company’s management is crumbling.

Verb, transitive:
The easiest way to crumble blue cheese is to use a fork to flake off small bits or freeze the block of cheese for 15 minutes.

Cars today are designed with crumple zones in mind.

Verb, intransitive:
It looked as if the whole defense would crumple up.

My shirt got all crumpled in the suitcase.

They heard the jetliner crumple moments before it crashed.

She crumpled to the floor in a dead faint.

The child’s face crumpled, and he began to howl.

Her composure crumpled.

Verb, transitive:
He crumpled up the paper bag.

There was a crumpled sheet on the floor.

He crumpled to the floor when he saw the blood.

The explosion crumpled the building.

Adjective: crumply
History of the Word:
Late Middle English and probably from an Old English word related to crumb. Middle English from the obsolete crump meaning make or become curved, from the Old English crump meaning bent or crooked. It’s related to the German krumm.

1 First known use: 15th century

2 First known use: 14th century
Middle English crumplen, iterative of Middle English crumpen, expressing frequent repetition or intensity of action.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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One response to “Word Confusion: Crumble versus Crumple

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