\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6 : a contestant whose name is withdrawn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

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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

And that barely even touches the surface, scratches the surface at this point. Fox News, "Former agent fires back at calls to abolish ICE," 30 June 2018 Meanwhile a recording of a turntablist had taken over, scratching away at Beethoven’s Ninth and whatnot. Mark Swed,, "Beethoven rolls over at the Ojai Music Festival," 8 June 2018 On this morning, Maria, now 78, sits at a table just steps away from her daughter, doing a word-search puzzle, oblivious to the conversation or the family dog who’s scratching at the door to be let in. Doug Williams,, "A caregiver's story: 'I learned to let people help me'," 4 June 2018 From its first day of operation a little over a year ago, Weathered Souls Brewing Co. has not shied away from brewing any beer, no matter how untraditional or head scratching at first glance. Chuck Blount, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio’s top 5 breweries," 4 June 2018 One of her dogs, Tango, had stopped to smell and scratch at the dirt on the trail. Angela Helm, The Root, "Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser Adopts Newborn in Surprise Announcement," 22 May 2018 After a brutally long winter, comes the brutal bump of potholes—followed by a line of bent, cracked and scratched wheels at the auto repair shop. Paul Berger, WSJ, "New York To Spend $100 Million To Fix Potholes," 30 Apr. 2018 One woman reported that the creature ran around her house and scratched at the door. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Known Unknown: Tales of the Yucca Man," 25 Apr. 2018 As the recent wave of body positive conversations has helped to scratch at, everyone's relationship with fat is different. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "What Are CoolSculpting and SculpSure, and Do They Actually Work?," 18 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The restaurant is known for its hippie decor, much of it donated by fans, and from-scratch comfort food like steaks branded with peace signs, Wavy Gravy Fries and Lava Lamp Wings dripping with garlic hot sauce. Liz Biro, Indianapolis Star, "Tie Dye Grill is closing, for good this time. Say goodbye to one of Indy's best tenderloins.," 9 July 2018 Obviously, the biggest downside of this method is that doctors have to create these replacement organs from scratch, using technology that doesn’t really exist yet. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "This Patch of 3D-Printed Flesh Is a Step Toward a Full 3D-Printed Heart," 3 July 2018 The 39-year-old, who has since rebuilt his property from scratch, isn’t big on tough love. Amelia Lester, New York Times, "Australians Can’t Get Enough of the Barefoot Investor," 29 June 2018 Shakoor obliges them with burgers and other fusion food like a quesadilla with lamb, in addition to excellent, juicy grilled chicken with rice, gyros and fresh from-scratch falafel fried to order. Kate Washington, sacbee, "Halal cuisine has blossomed around Sacramento. Here's a rundown of places to check out," 29 June 2018 Almost everything else here also gets made from scratch, including a gamut of red and green salsas. James Patrick Kelly, idahostatesman, "Boise’s trendy new taquerias redefine the taco – and diners get to taste the difference," 27 June 2018 For your kitchen makeover, or a project from scratch, look to SemiHandmade. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "5 Companies That Will Make Your Ikea Furniture Seem Custom-Made," 13 June 2018 Spirit Works in Sebastopol makes everything from scratch, including their vodka. Lou Bustamante, San Francisco Chronicle, "With the idea of regionalism, will more Bay Area bars champion local spirits?," 28 Mar. 2018 In addition to multiple cookie-dough flavors, Unbaked makes eight flavors of from-scratch ice cream, including McKenzie’s favorite, Fruity Pebbles. Gwen Ashley Walters, azcentral, "Edible cookie dough: Where in metro Phoenix to buy dough that's safe to eat," 13 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

15 Oct 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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Comments on scratch

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