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head-scratch·​ing ˈhed-ˌskra-chiŋ How to pronounce head-scratching (audio)
: the act or activity of scratching one's head while pondering or puzzling over something difficult to understand
used figuratively
Every year, around the middle of October, the finalists for the National Book Awards are announced to general bafflement. Specifically, it's the fiction shortlist that provokes head-scratching.Laura Miller
This is, ahem, a very complex scientific process involving a great deal of head-scratching and thoughtful staring.Tom Jordan
also : confusion


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: difficult to understand : causing puzzlement or confusion
… the system can lead to head-scratching results …Mark Bechtel
… we'll be revisiting some of the best, worst, and most head-scratching moments from our archives.Doug Brod
head-scratchingly adverb
head-scratchingly poor decisions

Examples of head-scratching in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Still, the music continues to override any of the head-scratching behaviors Future, Metro Boomin, and all of their friends engage in. Jayson Buford, Rolling Stone, 16 Apr. 2024 Tesla might make its numbers on the sale of its vehicles, but the automaker has a curious side gig: offering head-scratching products. Chris Morris, Fortune, 25 Mar. 2024 The head-scratching announcement of a plan to have a plan comes as pressure mounts on Democrats over the looming fiscal crisis. Taryn Luna, Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2024 Yet that hardly accounts for the bulk of the head-scratching cases. USA TODAY, 23 Feb. 2024 Beyoncé's wax figure is the latest in a long line of head-scratching celebrity likenesses. Lauren Huff, EW.com, 8 Feb. 2024 This really gets back to the head-scratching performance of Miami’s offense in big games this season. Chris Perkins, Sun Sentinel, 11 Jan. 2024 That desperation to find an identity shows most in the Warriors’ sometimes head-scratching rotation pattern. Shayna Rubin, The Mercury News, 5 Jan. 2024 The circumstances of their struggle made this a head-scratching mystery as much as a standard-fare loss. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 28 Nov. 2023
Mason Marchment broke his head-scratching 32-game scoreless drought in his first game playing with Domi. Peter Warren, Dallas News, 15 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'head-scratching.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1832, in the meaning defined above


1827, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of head-scratching was in 1827

Dictionary Entries Near head-scratching

Cite this Entry

“Head-scratching.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/head-scratching. Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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