What is breadcrumbing?

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

If, like us, you’ve heard of a new phenomenon called breadcrumbing, but you don’t know what it actually is, you’re in luck.

We can explain it for you – along with a few more internet dating terms.

According to ye olde faithful Urban Dictionary, breadcrumbing is: “The act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal text messages (ie ‘breadcrumbs’) to members of the opposite sex in order to lure a sexual partner without expending much effort.”

What is breadcrumbing?

Okay, so Urban Dictionary hasn’t heard of queer dating (“opposite sex”?!), but its definition is succinct and on the money.

Want to use it in a sentence? UD has you covered.

“Kelly started breadcrumbing early in the evening in the hopes that one of guys she’d been working might show up for a late-night booty call,” it explains.

To expand on Urban Dictionary’s definition, breadcrumbing involves leaving a trail of – you guessed it – breadcrumbs for unsuspecting victims still looking for a person to sit at home with for the rest of their lives.

What is breadcrumbing?

Also known as ‘Hansel and Gretelling’, breadcrumbing offers single people a glimmer of hope – just enough to keep the conversation going.

It’s essentially a newfangled internet term for leading people on.

“There’s breadcrumbing when you’ve broken up with someone but you don’t want to let them go; there’s breadcrumbing as a way of keeping a dating prospect on ‘hold,’” the New York Times explains.

“Or there’s breadcrumbing as a kind of game: when a person is ‘not interested in you, but interested in themselves staying relevant to you’.”

What exactly are these breadcrumbs?


Breadcrumbs come in the form of sporadic messages, DMs, Instagram likes or follows on social media from someone you’re interested in.

What is breadcrumbing?
(Flickr/Acid Pix)

Y tho?

Well, breadcrumbers don’t want you to lose interest, and at the same time, they don’t want the relationship to progress. When you’re about to quit, they’ll drop a few more crumbs so that you don’t forget about them.

“These are connections, not conversations,” Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T., told The New York Times.

(Flickr/Simon Bleasdale)
(Flickr/Simon Bleasdale)

She added: “They can have the paradoxical effect of making the person who receives them feel let down rather than gratified, but then, confused: Is one asking for too much?

“Should one feel satisfied with a smiley face or a series of exclamation marks or a string of emojis?What constitutes being recognised?

The perils of online dating

So, now that you’re all caught up on breadcrumbing (AKA: ‘other people online are dicks’), here are some other internet dating terms to watch out for…


What is breadcrumbing?

Ghosting is basically suddenly cutting off all contact with the person you’re dating.

It’s what happens when douchebags decide they’re over the relationship and withdraw from all communication.

Slow Fade

What is breadcrumbing?

Very similar to ghosting, but defined as “disappearing from a relationship all together over an extended period of time” (via Urban Dictionary).


What is breadcrumbing?

If you’ve been ghosted, you’re being haunted if the asshat in question makes a reappearance.


What is breadcrumbing?

Benching is truly terrible.

It means being demoted to the reserved lists while the person you’re dating looks for someone better.

The perp won’t get rid of you, they’ll just keep you hanging in case the grass isn’t greener.