From Middle English creime, creme, from Old French creme, cresme, blend of Late Latin chrisma ("ointment") (from Ancient Greek χρῖσμα ("unguent")), and Late Latin crāmum ("skim"), from Gaulish *crama (compare Welsh cramen ("scab, skin"), Breton crammen), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)krama- (compare Middle Irish screm ("surface, skin"), Dutch schram ("abrasion"), Lithuanian kramas ("scurf")). crema, and crème. Displaced native Old English rēam ("cream") (> modern ream).
Figurative sense of "most excellent element or part" appears from 1581. Verb meaning "to beat, thrash, wreck" is 1929, U.S. colloquial. The U.S. standard of identity is from .
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