A room can be crowded with people, or even overcrowded, since crowds consist of people.

But can a plate be said to be overcrowded if the food is spilling out of it?

Or will I have to describe it as overfull? (until the food stops spilling, at which point it will be just full ;-) )

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    You can say it, and some people will, but many more people still will pick a different word. So the question becomes, what it is you are writing and what is your intent. – RegDwigнt Nov 6 '15 at 13:46
  • Thank you. The question came up while I was reading a flyer from the canteen, "Crowded plate costs extra". It looked odd to me, but I'm not a native speaker, so I was curious if the word was "strictly limited" to describe people. As strictly as any word usage can be limited anyway :) – Torin Finnemann Nov 6 '15 at 13:58
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    I think plate is not a particularly good example. I have rarely seen crowded used in that way. But it would be perfectly normal to say the room is overcrowded with furniture, or certainly the animal pens are crowded. It is not a word that is restricted to humans. – WS2 Nov 6 '15 at 14:02
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    Orthodontists say a patient suffers from "crowding", referring to the teeth in the jaw. On TV shows devoted to contests among chefs, the judges will often say the plate looks too crowded. BTW, food spills off a plate, not out of it. "Crowded plate costs extra" is not idiomatic English for "large helping". – TRomano Nov 6 '15 at 14:36
  • Thanks all of you! I did initially write "spilling off of it", but google auto-corrected that to "out" ;-) google.com/search?q=spilling+off+of+it – Torin Finnemann Nov 6 '15 at 14:44

Of course crowded and overcrowded can be used to describe inanimate objects:

Ideas which had already been darkly germinating in Ludens's overcrowded mind came vividly into view.

She added the planned cross town route would only be single carriageway and would rapidly become overcrowded with vehicles.

(Examples from Longman)

overcrowded: filled with too many people or things


However, it does not mean that (in terms of collocation) it's natural or idiomatic to talk about an "overcrowded plate", for example. You can do it, and will probably be understood, but it wouldn't be the most natural collocation.

According to the CORPUS OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ENGLISH, these are the top 20 nouns that typically follow the adjective "overcrowded":

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