I've been looking for the name of the rubbish left when one uses a rubber (UK), eraser (US). I've come across a plethora of terms but it isn't clear which are more “universal”. (After all, a sharpener can have pretty curious names that are preferred in some areas, but sharpener is generally used in most places.)

So far, I've come across statements that the most common used terms are eraser/rubber shavings, eraser/rubber dust, eraser crumbs, rubberings, and eraser waste.

I'm interested in knowing the most common term in the US and the most common term in the UK. I want a word suitable for children and teens. I've got a couple of kids (7 and 13 year old) who will be moving to those two countries in a few months and they’ve asked me what the name of the little buggers is.

  • 9
    Are you sure there's even a special word for these?
    – tchrist
    Mar 6, 2018 at 11:57
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    @tchrist: I'm not looking for a special word; just any word typically used to refer to them. I've got kids who used to collect them when they were in primary school and it just feels natural that kids and teachers who use rubbers/erasers have a name to refer to the thing. Mar 6, 2018 at 12:38

6 Answers 6


I prefer "eraser crumbs".


(In the US a "rubber" is something else entirely.)

I was going to add an Ngram comparing "eraser crumbs" to "eraser leftovers", but Ngram found no instances of "eraser leftovers" or "eraser debris" at all in its database.

I can show you this one, though
Ngram LINK

  • 15
    Even in the UK, the word "eraser" is widely understood to mean a pencil eraser. "Rubber crumbs" sounds like it could be a byproduct from an industrial process, due to the word "rubber" having many more usable contexts than the word "eraser". Mar 6, 2018 at 12:30
  • 2
    Specifically, "rubber crumbs" sounds a lot like they should be related to crumb rubber
    – Useless
    Mar 6, 2018 at 17:44
  • 1
    Interesting that the usage has dropped dramatically in the last 20 years. Maybe erasers are not being used as much.
    – wallyk
    Mar 7, 2018 at 0:26
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    @wallyk Uses of the term might include typewriter erasers and blackboard erasers - usage of both contraptions has declined drastically over the past 20 years thanks to computing. And I'll take my backspace key over a disintegrating rubber any day!
    – Dai
    Mar 7, 2018 at 0:48
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    While an admirable answer to the general SWR, regarding the OP's question "What would kids say in US or UK schools", there is zero chance a kid would use "crumbs". It has zero currency, and would sound totally strange from a kid.
    – Fattie
    Mar 8, 2018 at 16:11

One term is "eraser rubbings".

For example the 1915 British book Surveying & field work: a practical text-book on surveying says:

Keep the plan as clean as possible, by covering up the portions that are not being worked upon, and see that there is no dust or eraser rubbings in the path of the drawing pen.

Gregg Typing: Techniques and Projects (1931, American):

Dust is the machine's greatest enemy, so see that the machine is covered when not in use, and be very careful not to allow eraser rubbings to drop into the type basket.

Ladies' Home Journal (1949, American):

Already the smell of education was in our nostrils: the combined aromas, odors, reeks and stinks of ink, tablet paper, pulverized carbon and pencil wood from overflowing pencil sharpeners, eraser rubbings, chalk dust, the newly silvered steam radiators the first time they were turned on.

Early Frost (1952, American):

...she found two envelopes. Scraps of eraser rubbings and pencil shavings clung to them. She brushed these off against her skirt...

Macworld: The Macintosh Magazine (1984, American) says:

No tiny eraser rubbings covering your desktop, no glue stuck to your fingers

There are many examples that I could list, but my favorite is definitely:

Little heaps of eraser rubbings are of no value to anyone and you may decide your original word or phrase was better after all

Orbis (1977, British)

  • 1
    Irraseably impeccable research. Indeed, I would just say "rubbings" if, again astoundingly, the situation arose that the topic had to be discussed at length. This raises another good point about SWRs, often the answer is "there's no word, but a phrase used is...."
    – Fattie
    Mar 6, 2018 at 16:52
  • 1
    @DavePhD You got there before me. 'Rubbings' is the word.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 6, 2018 at 17:12
  • Actually it turns out the OP is looking for what a kid would say. (ie, OP's foreign-language kids are moving to UK/US and wonder what they should say.) It's inconceivable a kid would use rubbings, erasings, debris, crumbs, or really anything suggested here !
    – Fattie
    Mar 6, 2018 at 18:12
  • 4
    @Fattie "crumbs" seems to be the most kid-like
    – DavePhD
    Mar 6, 2018 at 18:21


OP has clarified that OP's foreign-language kids

are moving to UK/US and wonder what they should say to indicate these things:

The factual answer (to that question is) there's no such term. (It's inconceivable a kid would use rubbings, erasings, debris, crumbs, etc.)

Kids just say "the eraser stuff" or "the stuff that came off when I erased."

That's it.

OP, often with SWRs the correct and best answer is that in fact there is no such term in English.

Indeed, this is quite common among SWRs on the site.

It's important to realize that one can think of a good SWR to use for a given SWR puzzle, and that's a fun part of the game on the site. In the example at hand, one of the answers suggests "crumbs" and that's a fantastic/erudite idea, and I'd imagine that a handful of times someone has used that clever term.

(Indeed - it's a bit of a phenomenon in English, that certain fairly common things, actually annoyingly don't have words: so we use "whatsit" or "thingy" - indeed please review this astute question! )

So for this SWR in fact interestingly there is no common term.

That's the answer.

Everyone says "the little eraser thingies", "the purple bits that came off", "rubber bits", "eraser mess" etc.

The best you'll get are erudite/natty possibilities (the main purpose of this site after all!), or in some cases technical terms (cool to know, but not an answer to "the" currency word).

As a footnote, it occurred to me that: erasings works well. (I would probably use that if - for some astonishing reason - the issue had to be discussed extensively. Note that erasings (might as well call them that) physically include tiny bits of paper, lead, rubber, the blue ink from the rules, etc, they are not really "just bits of rubber", so for me "erasings" works.)

But please note that I only include "erasings" precisely as an example of the fact that, on all SWR questions, part of the sport is thinking up a really good word that "should" be the currency world. Erasings is not commonly used; I just "thought it up" purely on the basis: "since the answer is 'there is no such SWR' here's one I thought-up".

  • 2
    For the US, I believe this is correct. It could be this is one of those things one could build a dialect map for (like the famous soda/pop/coke map), but I don't remember us having a word for it from my pencil-wielding school days. Rather odd, considering we did have the term "pencil shavings" for the leftover stuff after you sharpen a pencil.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 6, 2018 at 14:58
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    The "most common term" is that it isn't. +1
    – Mazura
    Mar 6, 2018 at 15:44
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    @Fattie as an interloper from the Hot Network Questions list let me ask, what is an "SWR"?
    – Ukko
    Mar 6, 2018 at 16:25
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    "eraser crumbs" is very well-attested in conservation, art, and architecture literature. So "there is no term" is just plain wrong.
    – Yorik
    Mar 6, 2018 at 17:49
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    @Yorik - Considering the question pertains to kids going into elementary school, not art conservation, that's no minor thing to be dismissed.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 9, 2018 at 14:08

There are special eraser pencils with fan-like brushes for cleaning paper after you have used the rubber (or eraser) (image)

  • Useful for cleaning up white paper surrounding images including grid lines
  • Drawings can be made lighter
  • Can be sharpened to any shape using a craft knife
  • Soft brush to sweep away debris

The top reviewer claims

This eraser does its job well and also has a little brush on the end to brush away the debris so you don't have to use your hands and risk smudging your work

Here is a British website, Tiger pens, advertising an eraser pencil

enter image description here

The eraser is white coloured and it can be sharpened with an ordinary pencil sharpener. The other end has a useful brush for cleaning off any eraser debris.

I'd say eraser/rubber debris would work well in both the US and in the UK

There's a question on SE Lifehacks about these "shavings"

How to deal with eraser shavings effectively

In a comment, @Hobbes explains why a brush does the job better than any mechanical gizmo

With the drafting brush you get all the debris in one stroke, usually

If the OP is looking for an easier word, because her two students are a 7 and a 13-year-old (see comments below) then I would suggest either "eraser (rubber) dust", "eraser crumbs" or "eraser rubbings" the latter two suggested by @GEdgar and @DavePhD. Personally, I would avoid "leftovers" as it's too closely connected with surplus food. The term debris can be pronounced in two ways: /ˈdeb.riː/ or /ˈdeɪ.briː/, and it is far from being arcane or esoteric. The term is used in ads.

Let the kids choose which phrase they prefer.

  • 4
    @SaraCosta where did you say in your question that the "kids" were 8-year-olds? You asked I'm interested in knowing the most common term in the US and the most common term in the UK. The term I thought of was "debris" and it seems to be common enough to be cited in ads, and by ordinary people. If you want an easier word, then suggest either "eraser (rubber) dust" or "eraser crumbs" I would avoid "leftovers" it's too closely connected with surplus food. The term "debris" is very easy to pronounce, and it is not arcane. Let the "kids" choose which term they prefer to say.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 6, 2018 at 13:49
  • 5
    Debris is definitely a better word for it than shavings... there's no shaving involved! Mar 6, 2018 at 14:04
  • 3
    I'd say debris is a general term. So, wood "shavings" are debris for a woodworker; steel "offcuts" are the debris for a metalworker; vegetable "peels" are the debris for a chef - and so on. The question at hand is, what is the specific term for this debris?
    – Fattie
    Mar 6, 2018 at 14:27
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    @Mari-LouA: I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. I mention "I've got a couple of kids who will be moving to those two countries in a few months and they've asked me what the name of the little buggers is.", and the kids are 7 and 13 years old. I used the word 'kids' because I wanted a blanket word for children and teens. Mar 6, 2018 at 15:49
  • 4
    @Mari-LouA: I'm not a native speaker, but I started reading English storybooks (native level, not adapted) when I was in year 7. I only ever came across the word debris when I was in University and reading academic works, hence my feeling that 'debris' is a higher level word which most native kids wouldn't use. Mar 6, 2018 at 15:52

Here in the midwest US, I was taught to call them "eraser crumbs," but I hardly ever hear them called anything. "Eraser dust" would more likely come from a chalkboard eraser. "Shavings" would be the debris created by sharpening something with a knife (or the knives inside of e.g. a pencil sharpener). I've only ever heard "rubbings" used to mean images made by placing paper over an engraved surface such as an old eroded gravestone, and rubbing a pencil or crayon lightly over the surface.


There isn't a single definitive term. I've always called it "eraser dust" and have never had someone confused by the phrase. "Eraser crumbs" or anything else along those lines would also be understood in context. You could specify that it's a pencil eraser if you want to be very clear; the word that means some sort of detritus is not important. (I live on the west coast of the USA.)

Do not use any phrase that involves the word "rubber" to describe an eraser or its leavings in America. Definitely do not let your kids go around telling people they collect the rubbish left after using a rubber, or you will have a lot of people seriously questioning your parenting skills.

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