verb (1)
scar·​i·​fy | \ ˈsker-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce scarify (audio) \
scarified; scarifying

Definition of scarify

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

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


verb (2)
scarified; scarifying

Definition of scarify (Entry 2 of 2)

Other Words from scarify

Verb (1)

scarifier \ ˈsker-​ə-​ˌfī(-​ə)r How to pronounce scarify (audio) \ noun

Verb (2)

scarifyingly \ ˈsker-​ə-​ˌfī-​iŋ-​lē How to pronounce scarify (audio) \ 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."

First Known Use of scarify

Verb (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1785, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for scarify

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Scarify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for scarify


transitive verb
scar·​i·​fy | \ ˈskar-ə-ˌfī, ˈsker- How to pronounce scarify (audio) \
scarified; scarifying

Medical Definition of scarify

: to make scratches or small cuts in (as the skin) scarify an area for vaccination


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