‘ dribs and drabs’

‘Dribs and drabs’ means in small amounts.

Example: Not all the students were allowed to enter the museum at the same time. The children were let into the main hall in dribs and drabs. * The striking miners returned to work in dribs and drabs.

The word `dribs’  is the short form of `driblet’, which in the 17th Century meant `a drop’ or `tiny quantity’. Some believe it comes from `dribble’ meaning `trickle’. ‘Trickle’ means to flow out very slowly and in small quantity.

The word `drab’ was used in the early 1800s to refer to a small sum of money. A small amount of money trickling down at irregular intervals. Hence, dribs and drabs. It can be a small amount of something or a small number of something.

Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – May 22, 2006

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