\ˈskrach \
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6 : a contestant whose name is withdrawn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

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Other Words from scratch


scratcher noun

Synonyms for scratch

Synonyms: Verb

abrade, graze, scrape, scuff

Synonyms: Noun

creak, grind, jar, rasp, scrape

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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


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.


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

This is what political scientists are all scratching their heads about, and anthropologists maybe not quite so much. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Corruption, fake news, and WhatsApp: how Bolsonaro won Brazil," 29 Oct. 2018 Back in 2016, before Trump was elected, the star was defaced by a vandal who scratched off his name and a TV icon. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Anti-Trump vandalism sweeps country: Yacht, Hollywood star latest targets," 9 Aug. 2018 Both are viable candidates to fill in as replacements should other pitchers be scratched. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "5 Astros selected to AL All-Star team," 9 July 2018 Cats or dogs who scratch on furniture or at doors and windows to get out can cause a lot of damage that’s expensive to repair. Kim Campbell Thornton, sacbee, "What’s shaking in dog- and cat-product innovations? | The Sacramento Bee," 2 May 2018 According to Loto Québec, the teen scratched off the Gagnant à vie! Stephanie Petit,, "Teen Buys First-Ever Lottery Ticket and Wins $1,000 a Week — for Life," 29 Mar. 2018 People cheered and took photographs, and DeeDee Jonrowe, who scratched from the race at the Rainy Pass checkpoint, greeted him with a hug. Tegan Hanlon, Anchorage Daily News, "After a note from mom and a rest for his dogs, Iditarod leader Petit heads up Bering Sea coast," 12 Mar. 2018 This left campaign finance reformers scratching their heads about how to keep big money out of politics, with these independent expenditures strictly off limits. Sarah Kliff, Vox, "Seattle’s radical plan to fight big money in politics," 5 Nov. 2018 The estate is located on top of a hill, and while the Scream scene might have been terrifying, the property is gorgeous, with the kind of picturesque view that kinda sorta makes the most head-scratching part of the movie make sense. Danielle Tullo, House Beautiful, "What It's Really Like Inside The 'Scream' House," 8 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Divorce means dividing that shared life in two and, sometimes, starting from scratch solo if your partner takes a chunk of the household necessities (see aforementioned toaster) can get pricey fast. Tanya Edwards, Glamour, "The Divorce Registry Isn't a Thing, but It Should Be," 26 Nov. 2018 The direct-to-consumer company designs carry-ons and checked bags that prioritize functionality over trends: sturdy handles molded to your grip, a scratch-proof finish, and durable zippers. Lale Arikoglu, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Everyone Wants an Away Suitcase," 26 Nov. 2018 The film is an intimate and accessible drama about a family of small-time petty crooks who live in a small house, scratch out a living, and take in a young girl who appears to have lost her family altogether. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The quiet, funny, devastating family drama is currently in theaters.," 20 Nov. 2018 Click on the ZIP code to see 2017 lottery statistics broken out for scratch and jackpot games (Powerball, Lotto, Mega Millions, etc.) tickets. Gene Balk / Fyi Guy, The Seattle Times, "These are the luckiest — and unluckiest — places to play the Washington lottery, data show," 31 Oct. 2018 They're meant to be hung on the wall, and have a hook installed on the back for easy hang-up (as well as a black fabric backing to keep your walls scratch and scuff-free. Brittney Morgan, House Beautiful, "You'll Lose Your Ship Over These Driftwood Skulls," 16 Oct. 2018 Everything is made from scratch and the kitchen seems to take particular pride in turning carnivores into fans with its flavorful dishes. Jennifer Bradley Franklin, Condé Nast Traveler, "3 Best Day Trips from Atlanta," 23 Aug. 2018 That's probably also why Sorensen and his colleagues didn't see any traces of pyrite residue in the scratches and scars on the bifaces in their sample, although some has turned up on tools at more recent sites. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Neanderthals used stone hand axes to strike a light," 26 July 2018 Two of them had multiple scratches and one tire was punctured. Washington Post, "Southern Maryland crime report," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The sessions are aimed at ages 3-10, but what adult doesn’t love scratch art? (610-388-8382, Shore Baby Parades (Stone Harbor, July 9; Wildwood, Aug. 1; Cape May, Aug. 3; Ocean City, Aug. 9). Lauren Mccutcheon,, "Where to take your kids in Philadelphia this summer," 6 June 2018 In spring 2016, Kornmeyer ran the Scratch pop-up restaurant in Irvington in hopes of finding a permanent location. Liz Biro, Indianapolis Star, "These are all the Indianapolis restaurant closings," 13 July 2017 The TechMatte screen protectors were extremely scratch-resilient compared to others, including protectors that cost more than $40. Brian X. Chen, New York Times, "Reality Check: What Does, and Doesn’t, Protect Your Smartphone," 24 May 2017 Guinness isn't owned by megabrewer AB InBev, but it is run by multi-national beverage company Diageo (also the world's largest whiskey producer), so scratch independence. Matt Allyn, Popular Mechanics, "Guinness Is Opening an American Brewery and This Is Why it Matters," 31 Jan. 2017 The TechMatte screen protectors were extremely scratch-resilient compared to others, including protectors that cost more than $40. Brian X. Chen, The Seattle Times, "What does, and doesn’t, protect your smartphone," 2 June 2017

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.

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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

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Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for scratch

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

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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

: put together quickly and without enough planning or thought


\ˈskrach \
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

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More from Merriam-Webster on scratch

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with scratch

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for scratch

Spanish Central: Translation of scratch

Nglish: Translation of scratch for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of scratch for Arabic Speakers

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).


living or existing for a long time

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