Definition of scratch in English:

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Pronunciation: /skraCH/


1 [with object] Score or mark the surface of (something) with a sharp or pointed object: the car’s paintwork was battered and scratched [no object]: he scratched at a stain on his jacket
More example sentences
  • As you can see in the picture below, a deliberate attempt to damage the mousing surface by scratching it with a key caused very little damage.
  • Let only the flat edge of the blade touch the surface to prevent scratching it.
  • Never use abrasives on either anodized or painted surfaces as they will scratch it.
scrape, abrade, score, scuff
1.1Make a long, narrow superficial wound in the skin of: her arms were scratched by the thorns I scratched myself on the tree
More example sentences
  • If your child cuts or scratches his or her skin, be sure to use soap and water to clean the area because open wounds are more susceptible to warts and other infections.
  • He dropped one hand and the one on her chin was drawn away with the nails toward her skin, so he scratched her slightly.
  • Wambach's skin had been scratched and bruised in several places.
graze, scrape, abrade, skin, rub raw, cut, lacerate, bark, chafe;
Medicine  excoriate
1.2Rub (a part of one’s body) with one’s fingernails to relieve itching: Jessica lifted her sunglasses and scratched her nose
More example sentences
  • Then it started on my face and some other parts of my body which you cannot scratch in public.
  • Huck itches all over and tries not to scratch himself so he doesn't make any noise.
  • ‘Uh, yea,’ Mark said scratching the back of his neck and walking closer to me.
1.3Make (a mark or hole) by scoring a surface with a sharp or pointed object: I found two names scratched on one of the windowpanes
More example sentences
  • A while ago, while in Northern Ireland, I saw someone had scratched the name INLA into the wood of a door in a stall.
  • Most often, the entire presentation surface of a redware object was covered with white slip, and a design was then scratched into the surface.
  • Engraving is done by scratching a drawing with a sharp tool on a metal sheet and then making a print from the scratched lines.
1.4Write (something) hurriedly or awkwardly: pass me my writing things—I’ll scratch a few letters before I get up
More example sentences
  • He held out the paper again, so I hurriedly scratched my name on his dotted line.
  • He went on marking things down on his clipboard, violently scratching a multitude of checks and notations onto the paper.
  • Then, driven by whatever strange spirit possesses them, they begin monitoring speed, distance and trajectory, scratching their findings into notebooks.
1.5Remove (something) from something else by pulling a sharp implement over it: he scratched away the plaster
More example sentences
  • The lines have been scratched out using a needle, on a canvas smeared with oil colours.
  • No way did I want my eyes scratched out by those freshly manicured nails.
  • Cleanup crews watched in horror as otters scratched out their own eyes to rid them of oil.
1.6 [no object] Make a rasping or grating noise by scraping something over a hard surface: the dog scratched to be let in (as noun scratching) there was a sound of scratching behind the wall
More example sentences
  • Yes, something was behind the vent, scratching to get out.
  • She scratches at the wall but it doesn't sound the same.
  • Its huge feet and long legs kept up with her easily, its clawed hands were stretched out ready to grab her, scratching against the walls, making a spine shilling noise.
1.7 [no object] (often as noun scratching) Play a record using the scratch technique. (sense 1 of the noun).
Example sentences
  • When I work with Obscure, I try to think of what can be done with scratching on this record that hasn't been done before.
  • Shakespearean rhyming couplets have been adapted for rap with an on-stage DJ scratching, beatboxing and grooving right along with the performers.
  • The album, which mixes rap lyrics, hip-hop beats, scratching, samples and live guitar, is now available to local people.
1.8 [no object] (Of a bird or mammal, especially a chicken) rake the ground with the beak or claws in search of food.
Example sentences
  • She could here the birds scratching at the ground outside her tent, the leaves on on the tree by the door blowing in the brisk wind.
  • As they talked, one of his chickens scratched up a coin that the young Swede recognised (so he says) as bearing the head of the Emperor Augustus.
  • The man still thinks in terms of animal manure and chickens scratching in the yard.
1.9Accomplish (something) with great effort or difficulty: he scratches out a living growing strawberries
More example sentences
  • The rare few that still survived clung on at the edge of society, scratching a living from what little they could find in their woodland domains.
  • He may not have felt so desperate if poverty hadn't forced him into exile: illegal, paralysed, scratching a living for the smallest slice of pie.
  • We think that our people were made for better things than scratching a living from tourism.
2 [with object] Cancel or strike out (writing) with a pen or pencil: the name of Dr. McNab was scratched out and that of Dr. Daniels substituted
More example sentences
  • It had over a dozen different words written on it and all were scratched out except for the last.
  • It is an explanation consistent with the typing of his name on the deed only to be scratched out and Adam's name written in.
  • It's full of marks and words that are scratched out here and there.
cross out, strike out, score out, delete, erase, remove, eliminate, expunge, obliterate
2.1Withdraw (a competitor) from a competition: Oswald’s Zephyr was the second horse to be scratched from a race today
More example sentences
  • Failure to play before the deadline may result in both players being scratched from the competition without notice.
  • The committee have decided that players who have not played the games by that date will be automatically scratched from the competition.
  • Jeter was the starter in last year's All-Star Game at Turner Field, but only because Rodriguez had to be scratched from the game due to injury.
2.2 [no object] (Of a competitor) withdraw from a competition: due to a knee injury she was forced to scratch from the race
More example sentences
  • Both silver medalists at the Athens Olympics have had to scratch from their event.
  • He scratched too from an exhibition match after the ladies final of the US Open.
  • Only four of the original 15 entrants scratched out of the race, which was contested over a muddy track.
withdraw from, pull out of, back out of, bow out of, stand down from
2.3Cancel or abandon (an undertaking or project): the original filming schedule has been scratched
More example sentences
  • Wednesday's launch was scratched because of a reading of low current from a battery system on the rocket's second stage.
  • Actually, scratch that, it sounds too much like we live in a lost and found shoebox.
  • York RI will also play a fixture originally scratched because of poor weather when they travel to Northallerton in Yorkshire Three.


1A mark or wound made by scratching: the scratches on her arm were throbbing [as modifier]: scratch marks on the door
More example sentences
  • Notice the puncture marks, scratches and big gash all the way to the lower right
  • Which card is more likely to be marked by nicks and scratches on its edges?
  • The black scuff marks and smaller scratches left last Friday night don't bother me as much - they're merely cosmetic.
scrape, mark, line, score
1.1 [in singular] informal A slight or insignificant wound or injury: it’s nothing—just a scratch
More example sentences
  • Have you ever been in an accident where you should've been hurt, even killed- and came out with only small injuries, or without a scratch?
  • I spent a year in Vietnam and came home without a scratch.
  • Thankfully this man was apprehended safely and all the officers were able to walk away without a scratch.
graze, scrape, abrasion, cut, laceration, wound
1.2 [in singular] An act or spell of scratching oneself to relieve itching: he gave his scalp a good scratch
More example sentences
  • The women resume their conversation and the dogs, no longer interested in each other have a scratch or look for more interesting smells to divert their attention.
  • When you've got an itch on your back you'll do anything for a scratch and there's not much in the ocean to rub against.
  • I picked up the paper clip as my mind told me ‘Just one little scratch wont hurt.’
1.3A rasping or grating noise produced by something rubbing against a hard surface: the scratch of a match lighting a cigarette
More example sentences
  • The only other noises were the scratches of the rats claws as they helped themselves to whatever was stored in their sanctuary.
  • Embedded within Pole's framework of clicks, snaps and scratches are subtle yet absorbing layers of sound.
  • First came the sound of voices outside, a familiar chitter of laughter, then the scratch at the door.
1.4A rough hiss, caused by the friction of the stylus in the groove, heard when a record is played.
Example sentences
  • The sound quality is fine, much as it was on the original LPs - minus the surface noise and scratches, however.
  • The scratches and surface noise of Jeck's vinyl further emphasise this notion.
  • Yes, they were free from the scratches, clicks and pops that plagued records, but otherwise perfect they weren't.
1.5A technique, used especially in rap music, of stopping a record by hand and moving it back and forth to give a rhythmic scratching effect.
Example sentences
  • Do you find it hard to beat juggle and scratch as opposed to blending the records to entertain the crowds?
  • Hip Hop and Jazz tunes were superbly mixed with turntable scratch and an infectious piano line that dictate the film's progression.
  • From the first scratch to the last, this album is dope.
2The starting point in a handicap for a competitor receiving no odds.
Originally denoting a boundary or starting line for sports competitors
Example sentences
  • Faced with having to give them a head-start of 7, he called it evens and had them starting at scratch instead.
  • Start and scratch is 6.45 pm, with venues to be announced at a later date.
2.1 Golf A handicap of zero, indicating that a player is good enough to achieve par on a course.
Example sentences
  • He went part-time at Springfield Park, where he works in the shop, to concentrate on his game and has reduced his ranking to scratch.
  • The others are to play for the county girls and seniors and get my handicap down from six to scratch.
  • Little Amy, 13, who receives England ‘birdie’ training, wants to get down to scratch.
3 informal Money: he was working to get some scratch together
More example sentences
  • By '99 they saved up enough scratch to record a full-length album, Rock and Roll Port Three.
  • As for material resources, some bloggers are now able to earn some scratch, but this is an effect rather than a cause of their success.
  • I've done some columns, I've had some freelance gigs, and Smith has gotten me some scratch working for the Internet site.


1Assembled or made from whatever is available, and so unlikely to be of the highest quality: at least two vessels set sail with scratch crews
More example sentences
  • There followed a scurry round to assemble a scratch team, kit them up, organise travel arrangements etc.
  • Bath took the game to the Italians with a scratch squad and did so with such determination that there was never any argument about this result.
  • A scratch crew from the rest of current affairs had to do the job instead.
2(Of a sports competitor or event) with no handicap given.
Example sentences
  • I never ever did beat Jonno off a scratch event, but Harry used to make sure that Jon always gave me a start and I'd get the best out of myself by trying to stay in front.
  • He was a scratch player at 12 and had a stellar international record as an amateur.
  • I won't get the benefit of those eighteen shots because it is a scratch event but at least I could make an attempt at qualifying.



from scratch

From the very beginning, especially without utilizing or relying on any previous work for assistance: he built his own computer company from scratch
More example sentences
  • It is a direct reversal of the previous policy where SAS would build its own tools from scratch.
  • Erase everything on the computer's hard drive and start over from scratch.
  • This would give it a cheaper entry to the market, although it would have to start from scratch in building a customer base.

scratch a —— and find a ——

Used to suggest that an investigation of someone or something soon reveals their true nature: he had been taught to believe “scratch a pious man and find a hypocrite.”

scratch one's head

informal Think hard in order to find a solution to something.
Example sentences
  • A greedy otter has left a Preston grandfather scratching his head for a solution to stop the animal slinking into his pond to eat his fish.
  • You're probably scratching your head even harder wondering why Merrill Lynch is talking about the impact that acquiring Red Hat may or may not have on Sun.
  • Purists in the audience were observed scratching their heads, trying to figure out a way to appreciate the ‘exotic’ composition.
3.1Feel or express bewilderment.
Example sentences
  • He must be scratching his head in bewilderment.
  • If this leaves you scratching your head, you're not the first.
  • But sometimes, you're just left scratching your head.

scratch the surface

1Deal with a matter only in the most superficial way: research has only scratched the surface of the paranormal
More example sentences
  • Yet even as he was speaking, aid agencies were warning the deal would only scratch the surface.
  • Yet, so far, it seems Stanford has only begun to scratch the surface in terms of its programmatic and curricular activities on matters Indian.
  • Having been here only 9 months I am still only scratching the surface and finding many delights are hidden below the superficial facade.
2Initiate the briefest investigation to discover something concealed: they have a boring image, but scratch the surface and it’s fascinating
More example sentences
  • I believe we're just scratching the surface in our investigation and a lot more will come out.
  • As reporters, journalists in Australia and England and I were to detail over the next year, that initial series only scratched the surface.
  • Over all the years, science has made more and more discoveries - yet still hasn't scratched the surface of nature's wonders.

up to scratch

Up to the required standard; satisfactory: her German was not up to scratch
More example sentences
  • Are spelling standards and vocabulary up to scratch in Southland schools?
  • The light must be bright to help you adjust, Standard indoor lighting is not up to scratch.
  • Irish schools require an investment programme amounting to an estimated 2.5 billion to bring them up to scratch.
good enough, up to the mark, up to standard, up to par, satisfactory, acceptable, adequate, passable, sufficient, all right
informal OK, jake, up to snuff

you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours

proverb If you do me a favor, I’ll return it.
Example sentences
  • It's a story of ‘you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.’
  • The amalgamated union of executive and non-executive directors represents a friendly society which operates on the basis of ‘you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours’.
  • She said the concept is based on the saying, ‘you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours’.



Example sentences
  • It came across as something of a head scratcher, like a grouchy surfer getting territorial over an epic swell.
  • Seven years on at the age of 24, the self-taught scratcher is a familiar face on the South Lakeland music scene.
  • They began digging in their spot, wielding nothing more sophisticated than garden scratchers and shovels.


Late Middle English: probably a blend of the synonymous dialect words scrat and cratch, both of uncertain origin; compare with Middle Low German kratsen and Old High German krazzōn.

  • Two English dialect words with the same meaning, scrat and cratch, probably combined to form scratch in the medieval period. The origins of from scratch, ‘from the very beginning, without making use of any previous work’, lie in the sporting world. In the past certain sports such as cycling and running sometimes used a particular handicap system. A line or mark, known as the scratch, was drawn to indicate the starting position for all competitors except those who had been awarded an advantage: they were allowed to start a little way in front. So a competitor starting from scratch would start from a position without any advantage. The expression up to scratch, meaning ‘up to the required standard’, also comes from this practice, as originally it referred to someone who was good enough to start from the scratch line. Napoleon had bad experiences in Russia. In 1812 the severity of the Russian winter and the resistance of the Russian people forced his retreat from Moscow. Of the Russians Napoleon is reported to have said ‘scratch the Russian and you will find the Tartar’. Whether or not this is true, from 1823 the saying is referred to in English, and people began to use the formula scratch X and find Y of other nationalities and persons. George Bernard Shaw wrote in St Joan in 1924: ‘Scratch an Englishman, and find a Protestant’, while Dorothy Parker wrote in 1937 ‘Scratch a lover, and find a foe’.

Words that rhyme with scratch

attach, batch, catch, crosshatch, detach, hatch, latch, match, mismatch, natch, outmatch, patch, thatch

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: scratch

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