In the OED, oen definition has three explanations separated by a semicolon and two use 'with' in italics: do I have to use 'with' to use that definition?


  1. a. To fill or occupy with a crowd or dense multitude; to fill to excess or encumbrance; to cram with.

All the examples use 'with', e.g.

1849 Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. 597 A port crowded with shipping.

I want to say that X crowds in Y, in sense 7a, that they fill it to excess.

So e.g.

  • the trash crowds in the bin.

Or is that necessarily metaphorical?

  • What about: a bin loaded/heaped with trash. – user240918 Sep 3 '18 at 14:03
  • Your example context the trash crowds in the bin doesn't seem very idiomatic to me, but I'd say it's the full OED's definition 4: intr. To push, or force one's way into a confined space, through a crowd, etc.; to press forward, up, etc. Now only figurative, as in quot. 1858, and coloured by 5. I'd choose a different verb if I were you. – FumbleFingers Sep 3 '18 at 15:09
  • i might "crowd" trash into the bin, i guess, but the trash doesn't crowd in that sense? @FumbleFingers though i'm no physicist! – user3293056 Sep 3 '18 at 15:10
  • Different people will have different ideas about what usages are "acceptable / natural" in English. But on the grounds that no-one would be likely to say The bin is crowded with trash, I think you've just got the wrong verb in the first place. – FumbleFingers Sep 3 '18 at 15:15
  • @FumbleFingers no you're right it's not "very idiomatic", just an intellectual exercise, of reading dictionaries, on my part – user3293056 Sep 3 '18 at 15:16

Yes, to match sense 7a you need the with1. That definition is for a particular use of the word which has the elements

[container-type thing or space] [crowded with] [individual things or people]

Those pieces can be arranged in slightly different ways (and the verb can be conjugated differently, of course), but you must have those pieces in that relation to one another: the crowdedness describes the state of the container-thing.

Your sentence

The trash crowds in the bin.

puts these elements in a different relationship with one another. Instead of the bin (container-thing) being the subject and describing it as crowded with the [pieces of] trash (individual things), in your sentence the trash is the subject, and you describe it as crowding in the bin. Here, the crowdedness describes the state of the trash, not the state of the bin.

But don't despair! Your sentence is fine, it just matches a slightly different definition, the OED's sense 6b:

To compress; to collect, bring, or pack closely together, as in a crowd.

And actually matches fairly closely the 1776 quotation for that sense, "flowers crowded, in the bosom of the leaf-stalks."2

As an aside, the OED is primarily a descriptive dictionary, not a prescriptive dictionary. So I would tend to ask "am I using this word in this OED sense?" rather than "can I use this word in this OED sense?"

1 You could also probably use by, but you haven't asked about that and I think with is usually going to be the better choice.

2 The comma looks superfluous there to my eye; I think in modern writing we would not include it, making this a near-perfect analogue for your sentence.

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