Are there alternative words to 'sleep,' when used as a noun to mean 'the substance that sometimes forms in the corners of your eyes after you have been sleeping?' Are 'eye crust,' 'eye boogers,' 'eye gunk,' 'eye goop,' 'optibooger,' 'sleepy,' or 'gound' acceptable?
It seems most dictionaries such as Oxford, Cambridge, Longman, Macmillan, Merriam-Webster, etc., don't include most of those words/terms. Why?

  • +1 for brilliant question! Everyone knows snot and boogers (British bogeys), and most of us have at least one more (greenies, pickings, etc.) for nasal debris, but there's not really a dedicated single word for eye crud. I mainly hear/use sleep, sleepies, sleepers nowadays, but as kids me and my peers just called it "eye" because nobody had a better word. Oct 16, 2011 at 14:42
  • Not really relevant, but having just discovered it's a British-only usage, I can't resist throwing in (Green) Gilbert as one of our synonyms for "snot". Oct 27, 2011 at 15:28

2 Answers 2


The actual medical term is rheum (which applies to nose and mouth excretions that occur during sleep, as well).

"Sleep" is what I grew up saying, but if Discovery Magazine is any guide, kids now say "crusties" as well. (The article also describes the organ responsible, if you're curious.)

Sleep always kind of creeped me out for being vague (and euphemisms generally unsettled me, making me feel like the actual thing was unspeakable), and "crusties" and "eye boogers" seem too childish now.

I think eye gunk is clear and not cloyingly juvenile; it gets my vote.

  • 1
    While we're on the topic, there's the stuff you find between your toes if you don't wash your feet often enough. Oct 16, 2011 at 14:57
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    @Barrie England: That's a whole nother question! As would be navel debris, ear scrapings, fingernail pickings, and (dare I say it?) smegma. Ugh. Oct 16, 2011 at 15:06
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    We called that toe jam!
    – user13141
    Oct 16, 2011 at 15:20
  • Euphemisms unsettle you? I've never heard that one before.
    – Jeremy
    Oct 16, 2011 at 15:23
  • @Jeremy They still do, yes. In my mind, few things are so bad they can't be spoken of directly; if others feel the need to avoid telling something like it is, I'm forced to wonder a) Why are they so freaked out about that mundane reality? and/or b) Do they see something (horrible) I don't see?
    – user13141
    Oct 16, 2011 at 15:35

I knew it as sleepy dust when I was a child.

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