verb (used with object), scar·i·fied, scar·i·fy·ing.

to make scratches or superficial incisions in (the skin, a wound, etc.), as in vaccination.
to lacerate by severe criticism.
to loosen (the soil) with a type of cultivator.
to hasten the sprouting of (hard-covered seeds) by making incisions in the seed coats.
to break up (a road surface).

Origin of scarify

1400–50; late Middle English scarifie < Middle French scarifier < Late Latin scarīficāre, alteration of Latin scarīfāre, scarīphāre to make scratches < Greek skarīphâsthai to sketch, derivative of skárīphos stylus; see -ify
Related formsscar·i·fi·er, nounun·scar·i·fied, adjective
Can be confusedscarify scorify Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for scarify

Historical Examples of scarify

  • Sometimes it may be necessary to scarify the gums, or to apply leeches to them.

  • He bobbed at once, but she hastened to the door to scarify him.

    Tommy and Grizel

    J.M. Barrie

  • Their mode of obtaining charity was to go barefoot and scarify their heels so that the blood might show.

    Haunted London

    Walter Thornbury

  • Perhaps the stinging words of last night had at last sunk deep enough to scarify his self-esteem.

    The Toilers of the Field

    Richard Jefferies

  • To relieve their wearied legs and feet after long marches, they scarify the former with sharp flints.

British Dictionary definitions for scarify



verb -fies, -fying or -fied (tr)

surgery to make tiny punctures or superficial incisions in (the skin or other tissue), as for inoculating
  1. to break up and loosen (soil) to a shallow depth
  2. to scratch or abrade the outer surface of (seeds) to increase water absorption or hasten germination
to wound with harsh criticism
Derived Formsscarification, nounscarifier, noun

Word Origin for scarify

C15: via Old French from Latin scarīfāre to scratch open, from Greek skariphasthai to draw, from skariphos a pencil



verb -fies, -fying or -fied

(tr) informal to make scared; frighten
Derived Formsscarifyingly, adverb

Word Origin for scarify

C18: from scare + -ify


Scarify is sometimes wrongly thought to mean the same as scare: a frightening (not scarifying) film
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 scarify

mid-15c., "make incisions in the bark of a tree," from Middle French scarifier "score, scrape" (leather or hide), 14c., from Late Latin scarificare (see scarification). The sense "cover with scars" (1680s) is a sense-shift from influence of scar (v.). Related: Scarified; scarifier; scarifying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

scarify in Medicine




To make shallow cuts in the skin, as when vaccinating.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.