A user on The Great Outdoors chat forum asked whether picking a neighbor's berries from bushes that were near her boundary fence was scrumping or foraging. So naturally, I looked up both words.

Scrump, from Oxford Living Dictionaries:

Steal (fruit) from an orchard or garden.

'I remember Gordon scrumping apples from the orchard next door’

[no object] ‘they used to go out scrumping and thieving’

Forage, according to Oxford Living Dictionaries:

(of a person or animal) search widely for food or provisions.

‘the birds forage for aquatic invertebrates, insects, and seeds’

1.1[with object] Obtain (food or provisions) by searching.

a girl foraging grass for oxen’

1.2[with object] Search (a place) so as to obtain food.

‘units that were foraging a particular area’

So if someone was wandering about, picking berries from several gardens, without venturing far into the gardens, would that be foraging or scrumping in general (not necessarily legal) usage, or could it be either or both?

  • 2
    Are you assuming they are mutually exclusive?
    – MetaEd
    Oct 9, 2018 at 19:31
  • @MetaEd edited to allow for the option that they are not mutually exclusive. I learned the word "scrump" a few hours ago, and don't know much about it, except that I like it.
    – ab2
    Oct 9, 2018 at 19:37
  • Possibly useful, has information about how the word has evolved: worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-scr2.htm
    – MetaEd
    Oct 9, 2018 at 19:42
  • 'Scrumping' is taking the windfall apples after harvest and is not, necessarily, stealing. 'Scrumpy' is a West Country name for a type of rough, strong cider. So there night be more to this than meets the eye for foraging, also, is not, necessarily theft.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 9, 2018 at 20:07

3 Answers 3


The distinction between scrumping and foraging has to do with where the collecting takes place. Scrumping takes place on a private property or a property which clearly belongs to someone e.g. a farm, an orchard, a private garden, an intentionally planted out street verge. In contrast foraging is collecting food from the wild, the bush or abandoned places when you don't know the owners.

Scrumping is closely related to gleaning. It's collecting something that the owner doesn't mind you "recycling" or utilizing. Often the owner will turn a blind eye to you collecting it - either because he has surplus, or he doesn't want it or because he knows you need it. Ruth in the Bible gleaned wheat from the fields out of her need - she was trying to support herself and her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth Chapter 2). This type of gleaning/scrumping is still a custom in Syria - farmers intentionally leave part of their crop unharvested for the poor and foreigners to collect.

Foraging generally occurs in public open spaces, national parks, crown land, on street verges, near railway lines, on vacant property or in abandoned settlements.

In the case of the example you gave I'd call taking the berries from the neighbour scrumping because she knew the owner. Taking berries from multiple gardens is still scrumping because the gardens are clearly maintained private properties. If the berries had been gathered from an abandoned settlement where no one lived, that would be foraging. If someone feels generous and puts a sign out that says "free berries - pick them yourself!" collecting these berries is scrumping. If their motivation for putting out the sign that says "free berries - pick them yourself" is to help out the local poor people, then that's gleaning. Taking overhanging berries that are growing outside the perimeter of the neighbour's property - including berries that are spilling over on your side of a shared fence could be scrumping or gleaning. Taking berries from a bush inside the perimeter of your neighbour's private property is stealing unless permission was granted previously.

  • Scrumping is closely related to gleaning. No. Scrumping is a euphemism for "theft". It takes place on another's land and without his permission. I think you mean "Foraging is closely related to gleaning. but even that is questionable.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 20, 2021 at 16:54

I think the definition of scrumping is vague. I understand it to be taking windfall apples from the ground in an orchard. It has been associated with children as they would not be able to reach the apples in the trees easily without being caught by the orchard owner (or their dogs/pigs).

This is not foraging as it is without the permission of the owner, but it is not a serious crime either, as these fruit are waste and would only be good for the pigs or cider making, and not for resale.

  • The definitions given in most dictionaries are quite clear. Are you saying they are wrong? This may sometimes be the case, but such claims need supporting references on ELU. Jul 20, 2021 at 18:19

Is there a gray area between scrumping and foraging?


So if someone was wandering about, picking berries from several gardens,

This is scrumping.

without venturing far into the gardens,

If you go into the garden at all - even by 1 millimetre, it is scrumping.

Scrumping is a euphemism for theft in which the person scrumping intentionally and permanently deprives the rightful owner of goods.


scrump, v. 1. intransitive (and transitive). To steal fruit, esp. apples, from an orchard or garden.

1959 Times 18 Nov. 14/7 A boy who has scrumped for apples and escaped with his hide.

1966 ‘M. Torrie’ Heavy as Lead xiv. 169 Kids scrump apples, Sir G. scrumped rock garden plants.

OED forage v.

  1. transitive. To collect forage

OED forage n.

  1. a. Food for horses and cattle; fodder,

MW forage

intransitive verb 1 : to wander in search of forage or food 2 : to secure forage (as for horses) by stripping the country 3 : ravage, raid 4 : to make a search: rummage.

To forage says nothing of the legality of gathering food, however in your example:

a girl foraging grass for oxen

It is unlikely that the girl would intentionally take grass from an area that is clearly owned by someone. Most foraging, in this sense, is done on common or unclaimed land and is therefore usually legal.

  • Isn't 'ravage, raid' likely to be unlawful? (AHD has 'pillage'.) If so, isn't this a grey area? Jul 20, 2021 at 18:21
  • 1
    @Edwin Ashworth According to the OED, scrumping is theft. The definitions the OED gives for foraging are tilted to pillage, with most examples being of soldiers or other enemies doing the foraging. Other examples speak of animals foraging -- that is, animals seeking their food -- or of people foraging among, say, books, for information. The OED is scant on people innocently and legally foraging for food maybe (?) because almost all land is owned. I am now not satisfied with the answers, nor with my question.
    – ab2
    Jul 20, 2021 at 22:39
  • I am now not satisfied with the answers, nor with my question. The sense of "forage" in your question is clear = to gather food (for cattle or horses.) This is the only meaning that you need to concern yourself with. Scrumping is, on the other hand stealing fruit chiefly for yourself. The guidance is "if it is not the same word then it has a different meaning."
    – Greybeard
    Jul 21, 2021 at 14:57

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