1. Trash, debris, or other unwanted matter that accumulates over time.
2. Unnecessary digital information that accumulates over time, such as unneeded files or obsolete lines of code in software: "By removing cruft, you can recover valuable disk space ... and reduce the chance of software conflicts" (Joe Kissell).
[Originally 1950s Massachusetts Institute of Technology students' slang, perhaps after Cruft Hall (the informal name for Cruft Laboratory, a building on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the physics department stored unused technical equipment), humorously taken as "hall of cruft" (perhaps influenced by crud and crust).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.