Breadcrumbs, breadcrumb trail and trail of breadcrumbs

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Breadcrumbs, breadcrumb trail and trail of breadcrumbs are interchangeable terms which mean connected bits of information or evidence. In website parlance, breadcrumbs or breadcrumb trail refer to a hierarchical construction of links which display at the top of a webpage showing where the current page belongs in the website. Breadcrumbs make it easier for a user to navigate a website.

The use of breadcrumbs to describe a a chain of information, evidence or hyperlinks comes from the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel collected by the Brothers Grimm. In the tale, Hansel and Gretel are taken to the forest by their father and stepmother to fend for themselves. Hansel drops breadcrumbs as they journey through the forest so that he and  Gretel may find their way back home again. Birds eat the breadcrumbs and the children do not find their way out of the forest in this manner. Even though the breadcrumb trail failed Hansel and Gretel, we still use the term breadcrumb trail to denote connected bits of information that may be followed back to the source.


“And we’re committed to helping them turn customers’ digital breadcrumbs into actionable insights that allow them to better predict – and explain – the choices those customers make.” (MarketWatch)

In 1979, Danny Brown and his wife Sherry, both second-generation amusement industry people, followed the breadcrumb trail left by their parents and worked as independent concession owners traveling between large fairs in California. (The Herald Journal)

But in too many cases, the breadcrumb trail starts with suspicious ones and zeros — with digital propaganda that we still struggle to counter. (The Washington Post)

A Thick Trail of Breadcrumbs Leads to Aspiring New York Police Officers (The New York Times)

Everything we do on the Internet leaves a trail of breadcrumbs about our location, finances and relationships. (The Indian Express)

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