1 of 2

verb (1)

scar·​i·​fy ˈsker-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce scarify (audio)
scarified; scarifying

transitive verb

: to make scratches or small cuts in (something, such as the skin)
scarify an area for vaccination
: to lacerate the feelings of
: to break up, loosen, or roughen the surface of (something, such as a field or road)
: to cut or soften the wall of (a hard seed) to hasten germination
scarifier noun


2 of 2

verb (2)

scarified; scarifying
scarifyingly adverb

Did you know?

You get two words for the price of one with scarify. The first scarify appeared in English in the 15th century with the meaning "to make scratches or cuts in" and later developed a figurative application of "cutting" someone emotionally. This word is ultimately derived from a Greek verb meaning "to scratch an outline." The second homograph turned up in the late 18th century and gained currency by the 20th century. This scarify was formed by combining scare with -ify, possibly as a combination of scare and terrify, and it predictably means "to scare or frighten."

Examples of scarify in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Some will confine their mess to pixels, but surely others will scarify the walls and stain the floors. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 23 Sep. 2021 And some on the platform feel free enough to verbally poke a pop star or scarify Spotify. Bill Hochberg, Forbes, 1 Mar. 2021

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

Word History


Verb (1)

Middle English scarifien, from Middle French scarefier, from Late Latin scarificare, alteration of Latin scarifare, from Greek skariphasthai to scratch an outline, sketch — more at scribe

First Known Use

Verb (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1785, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of scarify was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near scarify

Cite this Entry

“Scarify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


scarified; scarifying
: to make scratches or small cuts in

Medical Definition


transitive verb
scar·​i·​fy ˈskar-ə-ˌfī, ˈsker- How to pronounce scarify (audio)
scarified; scarifying
: to make scratches or small cuts in (as the skin)
scarify an area for vaccination

More from Merriam-Webster on scarify

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