\ 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 itchscratch 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6 : a contestant whose name is withdrawn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

Synonyms: Noun

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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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Those with fewer resources at their disposal made do with grids scratched on stone surfaces, tables or the floor. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Best Board Games of the Ancient World," 6 Feb. 2020 The budget, though, failed miserably to come up to scratch on this crucial matter. Jayati Ghosh, Quartz India, "Opacity in India’s budget numbers will have major implications for investors," 2 Feb. 2020 Liberals cheered when Hillary Clinton promised to kill the coal industry, then scratched their heads on Nov. 8, wondering how they got clobbered in former Democratic strongholds like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Stephen Moore, WSJ, "Democrats’ War on Fracking Will Cost Them in Battleground States," 22 Jan. 2020 The girl’s medical examination, which showed DNA from at least four people, as well as scratches on her legs and internal injuries, would appear to support her story. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "What the Cyprus Gang-Rape Case Can Teach Us," 9 Jan. 2020 Vice President Mike Pence scratched Conan on the head as Trump spoke. Justin Sink / Bloomberg, Time, "President Trump Brings Conan, Military Dog Injured in al-Baghdadi Raid, to White House," 25 Nov. 2019 His daughter said to authorities that her father left scratches on her back from his fingernails and ripped her sweatshirt during the assault. Doha Madani, NBC News, "Former MLB star Josh Hamilton turns himself in on warrant for injury to a child," 30 Oct. 2019 But while there have only been one or two incidents on any given weekend so far, matchday nine's first eight games produced a host of controversial moments that left supporters scratching their heads on Saturday., "VARcicle: Analysing Every Refereeing Decision Made on Matchday 9 of the Premier League," 20 Oct. 2019 This allows for a certain immortality in this increasing icy world, a formal and more durable version of scratching initials on the bark of a tree. Rick Kogan,, "Check the next Chicago park bench you sit on — it may be in someone’s memory," 14 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That’s what draws many to a weeklong boatbuilding course in Brooklin, Maine, which teaches the basics of design as students construct a wooden sailing skiff from scratch. Larry Bleiberg, USA TODAY, "10 travel goals that will help you stretch yourself and experience the world," 12 Feb. 2020 This store offers seven gasoline pumps, made-from-scratch pizza, bakery items, breakfast sandwiches and burritos, full-service coffee station, made-to-order sub sandwiches and soft-serve ice cream, according to a news release from the company. Cathy Kozlowicz, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Casey's General Store is having its grand opening in Lisbon over Valentine's Day weekend," 11 Feb. 2020 Ali, on the other hand, was going straight into a full-length set of new material written from scratch practically every time. Eric Randolph, The New York Review of Books, "The Bleak Humor of Tehran’s One and Only Standup Comic," 10 Feb. 2020 Now, Tahani must rebuild the universe from scratch, exactly as before, in Janet's void . Laura Hanrahan, Woman's Day, "Jameela Jamil Says 'Good Place' Character Tahani Will Stay There "Forever and Ever"," 6 Feb. 2020 Party officials have to try and reproduce this mix of technical, legal, and human resources from scratch. Charles Stewart Iii, Wired, "The Saving Grace of the Iowa Caucus Meltdown," 4 Feb. 2020 There are only 11 confirmed cases in the U.S. The good news, some officials and infectious disease experts tell TIME, is that U.S. agencies are not starting from scratch. Abigail Abrams, Time, "Past Outbreaks Provide a Roadmap for U.S. Government Response to Coronavirus Threat," 4 Feb. 2020 In the age of media stalwarts like Netflix, Disney, and HBO, starting a brand from scratch is an immense challenge. Adam Epstein, Quartz, "Quibi knows you have no idea what Quibi is," 3 Feb. 2020 This month, Microsoft finally released its new and improved Microsoft Edge browser, which the company rebuilt from scratch. David Nield, Wired, "The Microsoft Edge Features You Should Check Out First," 2 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective After testing the most popular models to find the best robot vacuums, our Cleaning Lab experts named the Roomba 980 our top pick, in part because of its ease of use, automatic recharge feature, and anti-scratch glass-top cover. Shanon Maglente, Good Housekeeping, "The Best Roomba Deals for Black Friday 2019," 22 Oct. 2019 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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Time Traveler for scratch

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for scratch

Last Updated

19 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Scratch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for scratch


How to pronounce scratch (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on scratch

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for scratch

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with scratch

Spanish Central: Translation of scratch

Nglish: Translation of scratch for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of scratch for Arabic Speakers

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