• synonyms


[skouuh r, skou-er]
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verb (used with object)
  1. to remove dirt, grease, etc., from or to cleanse or polish by hard rubbing, as with a rough or abrasive material: to scour pots and pans.
  2. to remove (dirt, grease, etc.) from something by hard rubbing: to scour grease from pots and pans.
  3. to clear or dig out (a channel, drain, etc.) as by the force of water, by removing debris, etc.
  4. to purge thoroughly, as an animal.
  5. to clear or rid of what is undesirable: to scour the nation of spies.
  6. to remove by or as if by cleansing; get rid of.
  7. to clean or rid of debris, impurities, etc., by or as if by washing, as cotton or wool.
  8. Metallurgy. (of the contents of a blast furnace) to rub against and corrode (the refractory lining).
verb (used without object)
  1. to rub a surface in order to cleanse or polish it.
  2. to remove dirt, grease, etc.
  3. to become clean and shiny.
  4. to be capable of being cleaned by rubbing: The roasting pan scours easily.
  5. (of a plow, cultivator, etc.) to pass through the ground without soil clinging to the blade.
  6. (of a plow, shovel, etc.) to become polished from use.
  1. the act of scouring.
  2. the place scoured.
  3. an apparatus or material used in scouring; scourer: Sand is a good scour.
  4. the erosive force of moving water, as in a river or sea.
  5. Usually scours. (used with a singular or plural verb) Veterinary Pathology. diarrhea in horses and cattle caused by intestinal infection.

Origin of scour1

1250–1300; Middle English scouren (v.) < Middle Dutch scūren < Old French escurer < Latin excūrāre to take care of (Medieval Latin escūrāre to clean), equivalent to ex- ex-1 + cūrāre to care for


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1. burnish, buff, shine, rub.


[skouuh r, skou-er]
verb (used with object)
  1. to range over, as in a search: They scoured the countryside for the lost child.
  2. to run or pass quickly over or along.
verb (used without object)
  1. to range about, as in search of something.
  2. to move rapidly or energetically.

Origin of scour2

1250–1300; Middle English scouren; perhaps < Old Norse skūr shower1


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1. comb, rake, scan.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for scouring

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • There are so many of us scouring the town every day without getting the smallest job.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

  • Thereupon they went their way, scouring the fields as far as the road to Mareuil.


    Emile Zola

  • The whole fleet were not scouring the seas at three of the clock this morrow!

    Clare Avery

    Emily Sarah Holt

  • You'll never catch the rascals by scouring the desert with a handful of men.

    Tabitha's Vacation

    Ruth Alberta Brown

  • The lady was very particular about the scouring of wainscotings and doors.

    Mary, Mary

    James Stephens

British Dictionary definitions for scouring


  1. to clean or polish (a surface) by washing and rubbing, as with an abrasive cloth
  2. to remove dirt from or have the dirt removed from
  3. (tr) to clear (a channel) by the force of water; flush
  4. (tr) to remove by or as if by rubbing
  5. (intr) (of livestock, esp cattle) to have diarrhoea
  6. (tr) to cause (livestock) to purge their bowels
  7. (tr) to wash (wool) to remove wax, suint, and other impurities
  1. the act of scouring
  2. the place scoured, esp by running water
  3. something that scours, such as a cleansing agent
  4. (often plural) prolonged diarrhoea in livestock, esp cattle
Derived Formsscourer, noun

Word Origin

C13: via Middle Low German schūren, from Old French escurer, from Late Latin excūrāre to cleanse, from cūrāre; see cure


  1. to range over (territory), as in making a search
  2. to move swiftly or energetically over (territory)

Word Origin

C14: from Old Norse skūr
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for scouring



"cleanse by hard rubbing," c.1200, from Middle Dutch scuren, schuren "to polish, to clean," and from Old French escurer, both from Late Latin excurare "clean off," literally "take good care of," from Latin ex- "out" (see ex-) + curare "care for" (see cure (v.)). Possibly originally a technical term among Flemish workmen in England. Related: Scoured; scouring. As a noun, 1610s, from the verb.



"move quickly in search of something," c.1300, probably from Old Norse skyra "rush in," related to skur "storm, shower, shower of missiles" (see shower (n.)). Perhaps influenced by or blended with Old French escorre "to run out," from Latin excurrere (see excursion). Sense probably influenced by scour (v.1).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper