Upper crust

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Upper crust is a term that has been in use since the 1400s, but only came into its current use in the 1800s. We will examine the definition of upper crust, its origins and some examples of its current use.

Upper crust means the aristocracy, the upper class, those that occcupy the pinnacle of high society. Starting in the 1400s, the term upper crust referred to many things including a hat and the surface of the earth. By the early 1800s in Britain, upper crust was a slang term used to describe people who considered themselves better than others. The term migrated to America where it evolved to mean those that are members of high society due to wealth or ancestry. There is a popular story that posits the origin of the term upper crust is steeped in medieval times, when the bottom of loaves of bread were easily burnt and therefore fed to the servants, while the pristine upper crust of the bread was offered to the lords and ladies. This is apocryphal, which means it is a story that is circulated as truth but is in fact, fiction.


The next day, I read another of Waugh’s books, “A Handful of Dust,” which starts off in stuffy, upper crust 1920s England and ends with a bizarre twist in the Amazonian jungle. (The Leavenworth Times)

As privacy became the vogue in the 18th century, Ekirch says, separate bedrooms became more common among the “upper crust of the upper crust.” (Vanity Fair)

Thankfully, the film does not get into heavy psychological avenues, and we get flesh-and-blood characters, set in the late ‘70s, who are upper crust, living in a town in Bihar (then, now Jharkhand) that still has some remnants of the colonial culture—McCluskieganj, a relic from British days. (India West)