\ ˈskrach How to pronounce scratch (audio) \
scratched; scratching; scratches

Definition of scratch

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to scrape or dig with the claws or nails
2 : to rub and tear or mark the surface of with something sharp or jagged
3a : to scrape or rub lightly (as to relieve itching)
b : to act on (a desire) used with itch scratch the itch to travel
4 : to scrape together : collect with difficulty or by effort scratch out a living
5 : to write or draw on a surface
6a : to cancel or erase by or as if by drawing a line through
b : to withdraw (an entry) from competition
8 : to scrape along a rough surface scratch a match

intransitive verb

1 : to use the claws or nails in digging, tearing, or wounding
2 : to scrape or rub oneself lightly (as to relieve itching)
3 : to gather money or make a living by hard work and especially through irregular means and sacrifice had to scratch and save for college
4a : to make a thin grating sound
b : to produce a rhythmic scratching sound by or as if by moving a phonograph record back and forth under a phonograph needle
5 : to withdraw from a contest or engagement
6 : to make a scratch in billiards or pool
scratch one's back
: to accommodate with a favor especially in expectation of like return
scratch one's head
: to be or become confused or perplexed
scratch the surface
: to make a modest effort or start



Definition of scratch (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a mark or injury produced by scratching also : a slight wound
3 : the sound made by scratching
4 : the starting line in a race
5a : a test of courage
b : satisfactory condition, level, or performance not up to scratch
6 : a contestant whose name is withdrawn
7 : poultry feed (such as mixed grains) scattered on the litter or ground especially to induce birds to exercise

called also scratch feed

8a : a shot in billiards or pool that ends a player's turn specifically : a shot in pool in which the cue ball falls into the pocket
b : a shot that scores by chance : fluke
9 slang : money, funds
from scratch
1 : from a point at which nothing has been done ahead of time build a school system from scratch
2 : without using a prepared mixture of ingredients bake a cake from scratch



Definition of scratch (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : arranged or put together with little selection : haphazard a scratch team
2 : made as or used for a tentative effort
3 : made or done by chance and not as intended a scratch shot
4 : having no handicap or allowance a scratch golfer
5 : made from scratch : made with basic ingredients a scratch cake

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from scratch


scratcher noun

Synonyms for scratch

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?


The phrase up to scratch has its origins in the world of sports. In the 18th century, scratch began to be used for a line or mark that served as the starting point in a contest or competition. In order to begin or continue a fight, for example, a pugilist would "come up to the scratch," positioning himself at a line drawn across the prize ring. Up to the scratch was soon being used figuratively of anyone who was ready and able to do something. Over the years, the usage of the phrase has evolved somewhat, but something that is "up to scratch" can still be said to be ready and able in that it is capable of functioning or performing as expected.

Examples of scratch in a Sentence

Verb Will you scratch my back for me? Scratching the itch only makes it worse. The dog scratched its ear. You shouldn't scratch. It'll just make your itch worse. Thorns scratched our legs as we climbed through the briars. Careful, the cat will scratch. The dog was scratching at the door. Be careful not to scratch the table. Someone scratched the paint on my car. The little boy scratched lines in the dirt with a stick. Noun There's a scratch in the paint on the new car! The table is an antique but it doesn't have any dents or scratches. I got a scratch on my leg when I climbed the fence. The only sound in the room during the test was the scratch of pencils on paper. We don't have the scratch to buy a new car.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Notre Dame was a respectable 30th nationally in scoring, at 30.3 points per game, in 2020 but labored to scratch out 14 points in a 17-point CFP semifinal loss to Alabama on Jan. 1. Eric Hansen, The Indianapolis Star, "Analysis: Look beyond the QB derby to the process driving Notre Dame's offensive evolution," 4 Apr. 2021 Both designs look as if they were scrawled by a child, which would cause anyone who knows how serious jersey designs are to scratch their head, although a Children’s Hospital tribute design isn’t a bad idea. Los Angeles Times, "Sparks’ #WNBAJerseyGate post might be the best April Fool’s joke of the day," 1 Apr. 2021 A few weeks ago, Gerson introduced brunch, which will scratch a nostalgic itch for anyone who has been to Mexico City, where the art has been thoroughly mastered. Hannah Goldfield, The New Yorker, "Fany Gerson’s Craveable Doughnuts and Mexican Brunch," 5 Mar. 2021 Use your fingernail or a knife to scratch the bark on a twig or a branch. Steve Bender, Southern Living, "What Should I Do With My Brown, Dead Bushes?," 4 Mar. 2021 Another approach is to wedge something that won't scratch the paint between the door and fender and then pull the release. Motormouth Bob Weber, Star Tribune, "Motormouth: Frozen gas filler lid might just need a new spring," 26 Feb. 2021 The Wrap case features a soft touch interior that won’t scratch your phone and a premium black crumb finish. Ellen Mcalpine, CNN Underscored, "Protect your iPhone 12 with these stylish and rugged cases," 16 Oct. 2020 My ideal dessert is a fat hunk of one of those blue cheeses that scratch the roof of your mouth and make your eyes water. New York Times, "A Luscious Peanut-Butter Wafer Cake That Won’t Give You a Toothache," 17 Mar. 2021 And naturally, the designer in me had an itch that an apartment couldn’t scratch. Alberthe K. Buabeng, House Beautiful, "How I Went From Renting to Buying a Home: First Time Homeowner Albie Buabeng Takes Us on Her Home Buying Journey," 19 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Negotiating the original deal was a hugely technical effort aimed at inventing from scratch a set of nuclear restraints on Iran. Michael R. Gordon, WSJ, "In Iran Nuclear Talks, Familiar Cast of Characters Faces Fresh Problems," 5 Apr. 2021 BouNom Bakery in Avon has been open for more than a year, serving authentic French pastries made from scratch. Susan Dunne,, "Sisters behind BouNom bakery in Avon fighting racism and giving back to the community," 4 Apr. 2021 Currently owned by the estate of its original owners, the house was vacant, so it was staged from scratch — and as photogenic as an Instagram post. Kim Palmer, Star Tribune, "See the '70s home in Bloomington that got 32 offers in 'perfect storm'," 2 Apr. 2021 At times joined by percussionist Sam Mazur, whose drumming contributes a low rumble, Marx built the sound from scratch. Washington Post, "How ‘Shiva Baby’ captures the anxieties of being a young woman," 2 Apr. 2021 Much like McCasland, the iron is hot on Golding, who has spent the last decade building a Wildcats program from scratch. Dallas News, "Breaking down candidates to replace Chris Beard at Texas Tech, including Grant McCasland and Joe Golding," 1 Apr. 2021 And making the stuff from scratch is like trying to win a GBBO showstopper. Adam Rogers, Wired, "Physicists Learn to Superfreeze Antimatter (Hint: Pew Pew!)," 31 Mar. 2021 But there is a cost to starting from scratch at the beginning of the season, namely the ups and downs a team must endure to discover its identity. Dylan Hernández Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: USC had a nice NCAA tournament run, but can Andy Enfield sustain it?," 30 Mar. 2021 The 2021 class gave Day and recruiting coordinator Mark Pantoni a chance to start from scratch, resulting in all but two of the state’s top 150 players being Buckeyes. Stephen Means, cleveland, "Josh Padilla’s offer another example of why Ohio State football is in position to again lock down the state," 30 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective To protect screens and kids’ eyes, OtterBox designed a shatter-resistant, anti-scratch screen protector that features blue light blocking technology. Zoe Malin, NBC News, "New and Notable: Face masks, speakers, dog toys and more," 29 Mar. 2021 Their legs are equipped with non-scratch feet to protect hard floors, something that’s nonexistent in most outdoor folding tables. Sian Babish,, "The best indoor folding table," 29 Mar. 2021 The anti-scratch glass top and bumper offer great protection for the robot. Maren Estrada, BGR, "You need to see these 10 awesome Amazon deals for Prime members only," 3 Mar. 2021 Some pairs of glasses have as many as ten protection coats serving different functions, such as anti-scratch, anti-electromagnetic, anti-reflection, UV400, waterproof, and blue light blocking layers. Popular Science, "Blue light blocking glasses that give your eyes a needed screen reprieve," 19 Feb. 2021 This pick has anti-scratch defense for vivid clarity and features antimicrobial agents to help keep your phone screen as clean as possible. Ellen Mcalpine, CNN Underscored, "Protect your iPhone 12 with these stylish and rugged cases," 16 Oct. 2020 Your phone is protected against drops up to 10 feet and gets added anti-scratch protection. Ellen Mcalpine, CNN Underscored, "These are our favorite accessories for Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra," 11 Sep. 2020 Your phone is protected against drops up to 10 feet and gets added anti-scratch protection. Ellen Mcalpine, CNN Underscored, "These are our favorite accessories for Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra," 11 Sep. 2020 Your phone is protected against drops up to 10 feet and gets added anti-scratch protection. Ellen Mcalpine, CNN Underscored, "These are our favorite accessories for Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra," 11 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scratch.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of scratch


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


circa 1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1851, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for scratch


Middle English scracchen, probably blend of scratten to scratch and cracchen to scratch

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about scratch

Time Traveler for scratch

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about scratch

Statistics for scratch

Last Updated

6 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Scratch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for scratch



English Language Learners Definition of scratch

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: to rub your skin with something sharp (such as your fingernails) especially in order to stop an itch
: to make a shallow and narrow cut in (your skin) with something sharp (such as fingernails, claws, etc.)
: to rub a surface or object with something sharp or rough in a way that produces a harsh sound



English Language Learners Definition of scratch (Entry 2 of 3)

: a line or mark in the surface of something that is caused by something rough or sharp rubbing against it
: a shallow and narrow cut in the skin that is caused by something sharp
: the sound made when something sharp rubs against a surface or object



English Language Learners Definition of scratch (Entry 3 of 3)

of a golfer : having no handicap
chiefly British : put together quickly and without enough planning or thought


\ ˈskrach How to pronounce scratch (audio) \
scratched; scratching

Kids Definition of scratch

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to scrape or rub lightly scratch an itch He scratched his head.
2 : to injure by scraping with something sharp He scratched his thumb on a nail.
3 : to make a scraping noise The dog was scratching at the door.
4 : to erase by scraping I scratched out my mistake.



Kids Definition of scratch (Entry 2 of 2)

: a mark or injury made by scraping with something sharp

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on scratch

What made you want to look up scratch? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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