\ 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6 : a contestant whose name is withdrawn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 Four years ago, on the morning of American Pharoah’s Derby victory, Farmer scratched Louisiana Derby winner International Star over a hoof injury as a representative of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Making people mad is part of the job for Churchill Down's new medical director," 26 Nov. 2019 But the bottom line is Anthony's just scratching the surface. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State basketball survives Georgia's furious rally, 93-85, at Maui Invitational," 26 Nov. 2019 The students, most of them with disabilities, scratch the windows or tear at the padded walls. Jennifer Smith Richards, ProPublica, "Journalism That Holds Power to Account," 19 Nov. 2019 But that description barely scratches the surface of Holic’s opus. Trevor Fraser,, "Orlando gets the treatment it deserves in ‘Bright Lights, Medium-Sized City’," 19 Nov. 2019 But Garoppolo scratched and clawed his way toward redemption, throwing the 49ers back into the game on a day when a usually potent rushing attack mustered only 34 yards on 19 carries. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, "Upon Further Review: Jimmy Garoppolo's rebound, Kirk Cousins' surge and a peek into the NFL's cellar," 19 Nov. 2019 The Sabres scratched former Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, who struggled in Sunday’s 4-1 road loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Bill Hoppe, Twin Cities, "Minnesotan Casey Mittelstadt finding his legs in Buffalo," 19 Nov. 2019 The move was head-scratching at the time, considering the pair had already committed to producing Star Wars movies for Disney—an undertaking that was likely to take many years and leave little room for anything else. Adam Epstein, Quartz, "The “Game of Thrones” creators would rather make Netflix shows than Star Wars movies," 29 Oct. 2019 The Wildcats scratched and clawed for their first win since beating Mississippi State on Sept. 14. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Late touchdown pushes Kansas State past TCU 24-17," 19 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But the Portland company, created from scratch to promote the cooler, was quickly overwhelmed and struggled to build a supply chain and manufacturing network to produce the cooler. Mike Rogoway | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Coolest Cooler calls it quits, admits thousands of backers will never get their coolers," 7 Dec. 2019 As a basketball program, this really is starting from scratch. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "David Teague returns to Purdue roots leading school located in Circle Centre Mall," 7 Dec. 2019 Reviving an old and well-known brand is an easy way for companies to re-enter a sector without starting from scratch, according to Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. Jordan Valinsky, CNN, "4 consumer brands that came back from the dead," 5 Dec. 2019 Broadly, the company plans to create stores from scratch — and partner with existing retailers — to help bring small-format stores to locations that couldn’t accommodate larger buildings. Brittany Meiling,, "This startup is designing cashier-less stores — and just raised $30M," 5 Dec. 2019 Besides cookies, Dolan likes to bake bars and cakes, always from scratch. Nancy Stohs, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Contest winner puts flavors of tiramisu into a Latin American cookie," 3 Dec. 2019 These libraries spare developers from having to rewrite these features from scratch. Wired, "Think App Updates Suck? Try Upgrading a Programming Language," 25 Nov. 2019 For decades, computer software has allowed people to manipulate photos and videos or create fake images from scratch. New York Times, "Internet Companies Prepare to Fight the ‘Deepfake’ Future," 22 Nov. 2019 To create her herd from scratch, Pinto focused on the youngster, Do Khoun Meung, or DKM for short. Paul Kvinta, Outside Online, "I Bought an Elephant to Find Out How to Save Them," 12 Nov. 2019 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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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

10 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Scratch.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 12 December 2019.

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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

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).


a period of high artistic development

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