Cream of the crop is an idiomatic phrase, being synonymous to the “best of the best”.
The exact origin of the phrase is unknown, although “cream” has been used as a term for “the best” since the 16th century.
In John Ray’s 1678 collection of Proverbs the phrase appears as “cream of the jest”.
“Cream of the crop” started emerging in the second half of the 1800’s and is probably a modified version of the French expression “la crème de la crème” which was popular in England in the early 19th century.
The alliterating expression would start spreading in the Anglophone world in the early 1900’s, emerging both in Europe and America.
“Cream of the crop” was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2011.
- Dictionary.com – The cream of the crop