[ skeyl ]
See synonyms for: scalescalesscaling on

  1. Zoology.

    • one of the thin, flat, horny plates forming the covering of certain animals, as snakes, lizards, and pangolins.

    • one of the hard, bony or dentinal plates, either flat or denticulate, forming the covering of certain other animals, as fishes.

  2. any thin, platelike piece, lamina, or flake that peels off from a surface, as from the skin.

  1. Botany.

    • Also called bud scale. a rudimentary body, usually a specialized leaf and often covered with hair, wax, or resin, enclosing an immature leaf bud.

    • a thin, scarious or membranous part of a plant, as a bract of a catkin.

  2. a coating or incrustation, as on the inside of a boiler, formed by the precipitation of salts from the water.

  3. Often scales. Metallurgy.

    • an oxide, especially an iron oxide, occurring in a scaly form on the surface of metal brought to a high temperature.

    • Also called mill scale. such scale formed on iron or steel during hot-rolling.

  4. scales,

    • a cause of blindness or ignorance, as regarding the true nature of a person, situation, etc.: You're infatuated with her now, but the scales will soon fall from your eyes.

    • Bible. an unspecified affliction that caused Paul to become temporarily blind. Acts 9:18.

verb (used with object),scaled, scal·ing.
  1. to remove the scales or scale from: to scale a fish.

  2. to remove in scales or thin layers.

  1. to cover with an incrustation or scale.

  2. to skip, as a stone over water.

  3. Dentistry. to remove (calculus) from the teeth with instruments.

verb (used without object),scaled, scal·ing.
  1. to come off in scales.

  2. to shed scales.

  1. to become coated with scale, as the inside of a boiler.

Origin of scale

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English (noun) scale, scalle, from Middle French escale, from West Germanic skāla; verb derivative of the noun; akin to scale2

Other words from scale

  • scaleless, adjective
  • scalelike, adjective

Words Nearby scale

Other definitions for scale (2 of 3)

[ skeyl ]

  1. Often scales. a balance or any of various other instruments or devices for weighing: We gave the parents a baby scale. The butcher placed the meat on the scales.

  2. Also called scalepan. either of the pans or dishes of a balance.

  1. Scales, Astronomy, Astrology. the constellation or sign of Libra; Balance.

verb (used with object),scaled, scal·ing.
  1. to weigh in or as if in scales.

  2. to have a weight of.

Origin of scale

First recorded in 1175–1225; Middle English -scale, -schal, from Old Norse skālar (plural), cognate with Old English scealu “scale (of a balance)”

Other definitions for scale (3 of 3)

[ skeyl ]

  1. a succession or progression of steps or degrees; graduated series: the scale of taxation; the social scale.

  2. a series of marks laid down at determinate distances, as along a line, for purposes of measurement or computation: the scale of a thermometer.

  1. a graduated line, as on a map, representing proportionate size.

  2. a table of graduated rates, as of prices or wages: These unions use different scales.

  3. a wage that conforms to such rates: How much is scale?

  4. Also called union scale. a wage fixed by contract that is the minimum permitted to be paid to or accepted by a particular category of employed persons: All actors and musicians for the performance, including the stars, are working for scale.

  5. an instrument with graduated spaces, as for measuring.

  6. the proportion that a representation of an object bears to the object itself: a model on a scale of one inch to one foot.

  7. the ratio of distances or sometimes of areas on a map to the corresponding values on the earth.

  8. a certain relative or proportionate size or extent: They built a residence on a yet more magnificent scale.

  9. a standard of measurement or estimation; point of reference by which to gauge or rate: We have no scale by which to judge his achievements.

  10. Music. a succession of tones ascending or descending according to fixed intervals, especially such a series beginning on a particular note: the major scale of C.

  11. Education, Psychology. a graded series of tests or tasks for measuring intelligence, achievement, adjustment, etc.

  12. Arithmetic. a system of numerical notation: the decimal scale.

  13. anything by which one may ascend.

  14. Obsolete.

    • a ladder.

    • a flight of stairs.

verb (used with object),scaled, scal·ing.
  1. to climb by or as if by a ladder; climb up or over.

  2. to make according to scale.

  1. to adjust in amount according to a fixed scale or proportion (often followed by down or up): to scale down wages.

  2. to measure by or as if by a scale.

  3. Lumbering.

    • to measure (logs).

    • to estimate the amount of (standing timber).

  4. Australian Informal. to ride on (public transportation) without paying the fare.

verb (used without object),scaled, scal·ing.
  1. to climb; ascend; mount.

  2. to progress in a graduated series.

Origin of scale

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English noun scale, skale, “ladder, rung of a ladder,” from Latin scālae “ladder, stairs”; verb derivative of the noun

synonym study For scale

17. See climb. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use scale in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for scale (1 of 3)


/ (skeɪl) /

  1. any of the numerous plates, made of various substances resembling enamel or dentine, covering the bodies of fishes

    • any of the horny or chitinous plates covering a part or the entire body of certain reptiles and mammals

    • any of the numerous minute structures covering the wings of lepidoptera: Related adjective: squamous

  1. a thin flat piece or flake

  2. a thin flake of dead epidermis shed from the skin: excessive shedding may be the result of a skin disease

  3. a specialized leaf or bract, esp the protective covering of a bud or the dry membranous bract of a catkin

  4. a flaky black oxide of iron formed on the surface of iron or steel at high temperatures

  5. any oxide formed on a metal during heat treatment

  6. another word for limescale

  1. (tr) to remove the scales or coating from

  2. to peel off or cause to peel off in flakes or scales

  1. (intr) to shed scales

  2. to cover or become covered with scales, incrustation, etc

  3. (tr) to throw (a disc or thin flat object) edgewise through the air or along the surface of water

  4. (intr) Australian informal to ride on public transport without paying a fare

  5. (tr) Southern African slang to steal (something)

Origin of scale

C14: from Old French escale, of Germanic origin; compare Old English scealu shell

Derived forms of scale

  • scalelike, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for scale (2 of 3)


/ (skeɪl) /

  1. (often plural) a machine or device for weighing

  2. one of the pans of a balance

  1. tip the scales

    • to exercise a decisive influence

    • (foll by at) to amount in weight (to)

  1. to weigh with or as if with scales

  2. to have a weight of

Origin of scale

C13: from Old Norse skāl bowl, related to Old High German scāla cup, Old English scealu shell, scale 1

British Dictionary definitions for scale (3 of 3)


/ (skeɪl) /

  1. a sequence of marks either at regular intervals or else representing equal steps, used as a reference in making measurements

  2. a measuring instrument having such a scale

    • the ratio between the size of something real and that of a model or representation of it: the scale of the map was so large that we could find our house on it

    • (as modifier): a scale model

  1. a line, numerical ratio, etc, for showing this ratio

  2. a progressive or graduated table of things, wages, etc, in order of size, value, etc: a wage scale for carpenters

  3. an established measure or standard

  4. a relative degree or extent: he entertained on a grand scale

  5. music a group of notes taken in ascending or descending order, esp within the compass of one octave

  6. maths the notation of a given number system: the decimal scale

  7. a graded series of tests measuring mental development, etc

  8. obsolete a ladder or staircase

  1. to climb to the top of (a height) by or as if by a ladder

  2. (tr) to make or draw (a model, plan, etc) according to a particular ratio of proportionate reduction

  1. (tr; usually foll by up or down) to increase or reduce proportionately in size, etc

  2. US and Canadian (in forestry) to estimate the board footage of (standing timber or logs)

Origin of scale

C15: via Italian from Latin scāla ladder; related to Old French eschiele, Spanish escala

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

Scientific definitions for scale (1 of 2)


[ skāl ]

  1. One of the small thin plates forming the outer covering of fish, reptiles, and certain other animals.

  2. A similar part, such as one of the minute structures overlapping to form the covering on the wings of butterflies and moths.

  1. A small, thin, usually dry plant part, such as one of the protective leaves that cover a tree bud or one of the structures that contain the reproductive organs on the cones of a conifer.

  2. A plant disease caused by scale insects.

Scientific definitions for scale (2 of 2)


[ skāl ]

  1. An ordered system of numbering or indexing that is used as a reference standard in measurement, in which each number corresponds to some physical quantity. Some scales, such as temperature scales, have equal intervals; other scales, such as the Richter scale, are arranged as a geometric progression.

  2. An instrument or a machine for weighing.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for scale (1 of 2)


In music, the sequence of tones that a piece of music principally uses. A composition in the key of C-major uses the C-major scale, made up of the white keys on a piano.


A system of marks set at fixed intervals, used as a standard for measurement.

Notes for scale

On a map, plan, or chart, a scale indicates the proportion between the representation and what it represents, such as the legend “One inch equals twenty miles” on a map.

Notes for scale

Temperature scales divide up the range of temperatures into equal degrees.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with scale


In addition to the idiom beginning with scale

  • scale down

also see:

  • tip the balance (scale)
  • turn the tables (scales)

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.