\ 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6 : a contestant whose name is withdrawn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

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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 Naturally, there’s also a DJ booth, where musician and Roots drummer Questlove will scratch wax throughout the night. Helena Madden, Robb Report, "How LA’s Historic Union Station Was Transformed Into a One-of-a-Kind Oscars Venue," 23 Apr. 2021 Avoid using a towel that may scratch your delicate lenses. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "How to stop your glasses from fogging up when you wear a mask," 21 Apr. 2021 Frazier is only beginning to scratch her potential outside of the gym, and that has propelled her to her greatest heights as a Bruin. Thuc Nhi Nguyen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier breaks the mold after Janet Jackson routine," 2 Apr. 2021 Rodriguez agreed with the decision to scratch him from Opening Day., "Eduardo Rodriguez back on mound, feeling better after ‘dead arm’," 27 Mar. 2021 If your feline loves to scratch your couches, this tree that features two scratchers will prevent them from running another couch. Jennifer Aldrich, Better Homes & Gardens, "Dog and Cat Owners Will Want Everything From Chewy's New Disney Collection," 15 Mar. 2021 The final stage is finding the tools to scratch a chalkboard that reveals a code to unlock the cage. Kyndall Cunningham, Vulture, "The Challenge: Double Agents Recap: Girls Just Wanna Have Fessy," 11 Mar. 2021 Famous people in formal wear appeared on stage to hand out trophies — scratch that, to read the nominees and announce the winners, who floated in Zoom boxes on screens behind them. Kristen Baldwin,, "Golden Globes review: Flashy garbage, that's their thing," 1 Mar. 2021 Thankfully, hoppy beers are by far the most popular in the craft-beer world, so there's always an abundance of choices available — both classic and new — to scratch this end-of-winter itch. Michael Agnew, Star Tribune, "Hops-heavy beers make good springtime sippers," 7 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But the nation's top infectious disease specialist -- who once disputed that the Biden team was starting from scratch -- now says that the Biden team deserves credit for the current state of the vaccine roll out. Ashley Semler, CNN, "Inside Biden's make-or-break first 100 days battling the Covid pandemic," 26 Apr. 2021 Even though the number of House seats won't change, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will still redraw the state’s congressional boundaries from scratch. Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic, "Arizona population fails to grow fast enough to win a 10th House seat in Congress," 26 Apr. 2021 Reheating last night’s dinner will probably consume less energy than cooking a new meal from scratch. Washington Post, "20 ideas to help you go green in the kitchen," 26 Apr. 2021 But Union Station was, in fact, built to be a train station, not a space for live performances, meaning Rockwell had to start from scratch to build his set. Meg Donohue, Town & Country, "How This Year's Oscars Ceremony Was Designed," 25 Apr. 2021 The Marshall Plan financed the rebuilding of modern industrial economies, not building something new from scratch. WSJ, "Kamala Harris Explains Illegal Immigration," 24 Apr. 2021 Galaxy’s Edge, the land that Disney created from scratch at theme parks on both coasts. Dewayne Bevil,, "Disney: Galaxy’s Edge book goes behind scenes, reveals scrapped plans," 23 Apr. 2021 Christopher Nolan insists on building everything from scratch for his gargantuan set pieces, only to blow it all up. Ben Flanagan |, al, "Oscars 2021: Win your pool with these predictions," 23 Apr. 2021 Since the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant was passed in late December, the SBA has been tasked with creating the program and processes from scratch. Dave Brooks, Billboard, "SBA Shares More Details About Shuttered Venues Grant Relaunch," 23 Apr. 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.

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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

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Scratch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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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
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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