scape·​grace ˈskāp-ˌgrās How to pronounce scapegrace (audio)
: an incorrigible rascal

Did you know?

At first glance, you might think scapegrace has something in common with scapegoat, our word for a person who takes the blame for someone else's mistake or calamity. Indeed, the words do share a common source—the verb scape, a variant of escape that was once far more common than it is today. Scapegrace, which first appeared in English in the mid-18th century (over 200 years after scapegoat), arrived at its meaning through its literal interpretation as "one who has escaped the grace of God." (Two now-obsolete words based on a similar notion are scape-thrift, meaning "spendthrift," and want-grace, a synonym of scapegrace.) In ornithological circles, scapegrace can also refer to a loon with a red throat, but this sense is rare.

Examples of scapegrace in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Her affect evokes old-timey words — scamp, scapegrace, minx. New York Times, 22 July 2021 Suddenly, Juliana’s romantic ennui is interrupted by the reappearance, after an 11-year absence, of her scapegrace oldest brother. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2020 The Middle Ages died dismally, and the scapegrace poet Francois Villon sang their requiem in the wineshops of the Cité. Bruce Dale, National Geographic, 17 Apr. 2019 Somehow, a theme-park ride combined with clever, madcap visuals and Johnny Depp’s scapegrace showboating added up to something fresh. A. O. Scott, New York Times, 25 May 2017

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

Word History


scape entry 1

First Known Use

1763, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of scapegrace was in 1763


Dictionary Entries Near scapegrace

Cite this Entry

“Scapegrace.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!