When your hands are dirty, you can rub them together vigorously, and small pills of dirt and oil will form that fall away. I have an inkling that there is a name for these things, or this action, but I can’t seem to find it by searching. Is there one? If so, what is it?

  • Just FYI, a lot of what is in that "ball" is skin.
    – Mike
    Mar 30, 2015 at 5:11
  • @Mike: Yep. When your hands don’t have anything on them (other than dead skin of course) you can still do this for that very reason.
    – Jon Purdy
    Mar 30, 2015 at 5:15
  • 1
    My money's on "there is no word for something that specific". Mar 30, 2015 at 6:41
  • @ParthianShot: Mine too! I think it’s very likely that I’m misremembering or confabulating, but I want to make sure in case someone says to themselves “what an idiot, that’s obviously —!”.
    – Jon Purdy
    Mar 30, 2015 at 7:04
  • 1
    A bolus is something that is being eaten, normally, which I hope you aren't doing with this dirt.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 30, 2015 at 21:46

2 Answers 2


How about dregs, smut, or crud?

dregs: a small remnant; any small quantity.

crud: a deposit or coating of refuse or of an impure or alien substance; muck.

smut: a speck of soot or dirt.

  • 3
    Crud was the first word that popped into my head as well, but it doesn't necessarily mean the little pills that form when you rub your hands; it is also perfectly usable of the dirt on your hands before you rub them. Mar 30, 2015 at 7:48
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, agreed, but I thought they were worthwhile contenders. I couldn't think of a more specific word for those grime balls.
    – Mike
    Mar 30, 2015 at 8:21

My grandmother used to have a horrifically racist name for these. For whatever random reason the thought just entered my head wondering if there was a more acceptable term, and here I am, learning there's not. I call them dirt rolls now.

  • 2
    Would you mind mentioning what the term was, for educational purposes? (I'm not kidding--I think it would be a valuable addition, though obviously you would recommend against using the term today.) If you can find other examples of the term being used, or discussion of it, that would be even better.
    – herisson
    Jun 29, 2015 at 20:56
  • 1
    I don't know the name the OP was thinking of. According to Google, one well known insulting name for them is "nigger babies", so that might be it. Some days I swear I am tired of being human.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 15, 2015 at 16:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.