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From Middle English creime, creme, from Old French creme, cresme, blend of Late Latin chrisma (ointment) (from Ancient Greek χρῖσμα (khrîsma, unguent)), and Late Latin crāmum (skim), from Gaulish *crama (compare Welsh cramen (scab, skin), Breton crammen), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)krama- (compare Middle Irish screm (surface, skin), Dutch schram (abrasion), Lithuanian kramas (scurf)). Displaced native Old English rēam (cream) (> modern ream). Figurative sense of "most excellent element or part" appears from 1581. Verb meaning "to beat, thrash, wreck" is 1929, U.S. colloquial. The U.S. standard of identity is from 21 CFR 131.3(a).