‘Creme' or 'Cream': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on June 9, 2023

Do you want to know the difference between 'creme' and 'cream?' This post will help!

Here is the short version: 

  • 'Creme' is the French word for 'cream,' and it is often used as a culinary term or a creamy liquor. 
  • 'Cream' is the grammatically correct English spelling for the word that describes the pale yellow layer of milk, which is high in butterfat. 

Reading this entire post will help you remember the difference between 'creme' or 'cream.' So, keep reading to learn these terms' spellings, definitions, and pronunciations.

What's the Difference Between 'Creme' or 'Cream?'

'Creme' and 'cream' are both terms that describe cream or a cream-like liquid. However, 'cream' describes a layer of milk with a higher concentration of butterfat, giving it a pale yellow color.

Some 'creme' recipes may call for 'cream' or contain artificial cream. There are many liquors and additives with creme in the name that you might find in a bar, for example:

  • Creme de mint
  • Creme de Coco
  • Strawberry creme liquor

However, 'creme' is also the French word for cream. So, it is often found in French recipes or used in the name of dishes or drinks to give them a French flare.

When to Use 'Creme' or 'Cream'

'Creme' and 'cream' are very similar.

So, how do you know which to use and when?

  • Use 'creme' if you are referring to liquor.

For example, you could ask a bartender:

Can you mix creme de coco into my strawberry daiquiri? 

  • Use 'creme' when writing a recipe's French name.

For example, I might ask a friend:

Do you have the recipe for créme brûlée? I want to make it for a dinner party I am hosting. 

  • Use 'creme' when naming a new dessert or dish with a French influence.

For example, you could name a cake:

Hazelnut Créme Café Gâteau

  • Use 'cream' when you want someone to give you a milky coffee additive.

For example, someone might ask you:

Will you put two sugars and three creams in my coffee?

  • Use 'cream' to specifically reference the part of milk that is higher in butterfat.

For example, you could say:

We need three cups of heavy cream for the recipe. 

  • Use 'cream' when referencing the cheese spread people often put on bagels.

For example, you might say:

A bagel with cream cheese is one of my favorite things to eat. 

Definition of 'Creme': What Does 'Creme' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'créme' is:

  • A sugary liquor

It can also mean:

  • A French word for cream
  • A liquid resembling cream

Synonyms of 'Creme'

  • Cream
  • Milk
  • Creamer
  • Top
  • A-list
  • Exclusive
  • Premium
  • Best

'Creme' Phrases

  • Créme caramel
  • Créme de la Créme
  • Créme de menthe
  • Créme de mint
  • Créme de cacao
  • Créme de cassis

Definition of 'Cream': What Does 'Cream' Mean?

The same defines 'cream' as a noun or verb that means:

  • The pale yellow layer of milk with the highest concentration of butterfat

It can also mean:

  • The food you use cream to prepare, like cream spinach, cream corn, etc.
  • Liquid with a creamy consistency
  • The choice selection
  • Pale yellow color
  • To create a cream or a creamy froth
  • To beat into a foam
  • Beat until a mixture turns into a smooth consistency
  • To annihilate an opponent mercilessly
  • To smash, break, or wreck

Synonyms of 'Cream'

  • Best
  • Top
  • Cream of the crop
  • Pick of the litter
  • Aristocracy
  • High-society
  • Nobility
  • Quality
  • Upper class
  • Elite
  • Exclusive
  • Illuminati

'Cream' Phrases

  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Cream and sugar
  • Creamery
  • Creamed corn
  • Cream of chicken
  • Cream of mushroom
  • Cream of the crop
  • Whipped cream
  • Cream topping
  • Light cream
  • Sweet cream
  • Chocolate cream
  • Vanilla cream
  • Ice cream
  • Whipped cream topping
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Creme' or 'Cream'

Now, let's look at the pronunciation of 'creme' or 'cream.' Learning the correct pronunciations will boost confidence in your written and verbal communications.

So, here is a simple pronunciation guide:

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'créme':


  • This is the phonetic spelling you use to pronounce 'cream':

krēm or kreem

Sample Sentences Using 'Creme' or 'Cream'

Finally, read these sample sentences that use 'créme' or 'cream.' They will help you remember the difference between these terms.


  • For my birthday, I want a coconut créme gâteau.
  • The concierge told them e French bistro is the créme de la créme.
  • Our culinary school teacher is instructing us on how to make the perfect créme brûlée. 
  • Every bar needs créme de menthe and créme de cacao
  • The most delicious tropical drinks contain créme de cacao.
  • Most people have tried a Cadbury Creme Egg or two in their life.


  • The pick of the litter is the cream of the crop. The runt of the litter is cute but sickly.
  • Some people can drink their coffee black, but I have to have at least two or three creams and a couple of spoons of sugar.
  • We love to eat ice cream from the local creamery.
  • Please pass me a bagel and cream cheese.
  • You have no right to steal other people's ice cream. Do not take it out of the freezer if it is not yours.
  • Heavy whipping cream is excellent for cooking but less than ideal for drinking.
  • After eating all of those cookies and cream bars, she had a stomach ache for hours.

A Summary of the Difference Between 'Creme' and 'Cream'

After everything we just covered about the difference between 'creme' and 'cream,' here is a quick recap:

  • 'Créme' is a French word for cream, a sweet liquor, and a cream-like liquid.
  • 'Cream' is the layer of milk-colored light yellow due to its high butter fat content.

These terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, 'cream' is the official English word for the portion of milk with the highest fat content, so it floats to the top.

If you ever get stumped by these or other terms, you can always come back here to review the meanings in our confusing words guides. Each contains a quick answer and a deep dive with definitions, examples, pronunciations, and grammar rules.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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