[ skrach ]
See synonyms for scratch on
verb (used with object)
  1. to break, mar, or mark the surface of by rubbing, scraping, or tearing with something sharp or rough: to scratch one's hand on a nail.

  2. to dig, scrape, or tear (something) out or off with or as if with the nails, claws, etc.: to scratch the burs off one's coat.

  1. to rub or scrape slightly, as with the fingernails, to relieve itching.

  2. to rub or draw along a rough, grating surface: to scratch a match on the sidewalk.

  3. to erase, cancel, strike out, or eliminate (a name, something written, etc.) by or as if by drawing a line through it (often followed by out): Scratch out the third name on the list.

  4. to withdraw (an entry) from a race or competition.

  5. U.S. Politics.

    • to divide (one's vote) though predominantly supporting one political party or faction.

    • to strike out or reject a particular name or names on (a party ticket) in voting.

  6. to write or draw by scraping or cutting the lines into a surface: She scratched her initials on the glass.

  7. to manipulate (a phonograph record) back and forth under the stylus to produce rhythmic sounds.

verb (used without object)
  1. to use the nails, claws, etc., for tearing, digging, etc.

  2. to relieve itching by rubbing or scraping lightly, as with the fingernails.

  1. to make a slight grating noise, as a pen.

  2. to earn a living or to manage in any respect with great difficulty: We scratched along that year on very little money.

  3. to withdraw or be withdrawn from a contest or competition.

  4. (in certain card games) to make no score; earn no points.

  5. Billiards, Pool. to make a shot that results in a penalty, especially to pocket the cue ball without hitting the object ball.

  1. a slight injury, mar, or mark, usually thin and shallow, caused by scratching: three scratches on my leg; a noticeable scratch on the table.

  2. a rough mark made by a pen, pencil, etc.; scrawl.

  1. an act of scratching.

  2. the slight grating sound caused by scratching.

  3. the starting place, starting time, or status of a competitor in a handicap who has no allowance and no penalty.

  4. Billiards, Pool.

    • a shot resulting in a penalty, especially a pocketing of the cue ball without hitting the object ball.

    • a fluke or lucky shot.

  5. (in certain card games) a score of zero; nothing.

  6. Baseball. scratch hit.

  7. Slang. money; cash.

  1. used for hasty writing, notes, etc.: scratch paper.

  2. without any allowance, penalty, or handicap, as a competitor or contestant.

  1. Informal. done by or dependent on chance: a scratch shot.

  2. Informal. gathered hastily and indiscriminately: a scratch crew.

  3. done or made from scratch: a scratch cake.

Idioms about scratch

  1. from scratch,

    • from the very beginning or starting point.

    • from nothing; without resources: After the depression he started another business from scratch.

  2. up to scratch, in conformity with a certain standard; adequate; satisfactory: The local symphony orchestra has improved this year, but it is still not up to scratch.

Origin of scratch

1425–75; late Middle English scracche (v.), blend of Middle English scratte to scratch, and cracche to scratch; cognate with Middle Dutch cratsen

Other words from scratch

  • scratch·a·ble, adjective
  • scratch·a·bly, adverb
  • scratcher, noun
  • scratchless, adjective
  • scratchlike, adjective
  • un·scratch·a·ble, adjective
  • un·scratched, adjective
  • un·scratch·ing, adjective

Words Nearby scratch

Other definitions for Scratch (2 of 2)

[ skrach ]

  1. Old Scratch; Satan.

Origin of Scratch

1730–40; alteration of scrat hermaphrodite (late Middle English scratte; compare Old English scritta (once), which may be an error for *scratta); cognate with Old Norse skratti devil, goblin, wizard, Old High German skraz wood-demon Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use scratch in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for scratch


/ (skrætʃ) /

  1. to mark or cut (the surface of something) with a rough or sharp instrument

  2. (often foll by at, out, off, etc) to scrape (the surface of something), as with claws, nails, etc

  1. to scrape (the surface of the skin) with the nails, as to relieve itching

  2. to chafe or irritate (a surface, esp the skin)

  3. to make or cause to make a grating sound; scrape

  4. (tr sometimes foll by out) to erase by or as if by scraping

  5. (tr) to write or draw awkwardly

  6. (intr sometimes foll by along) to earn a living, manage, etc, with difficulty

  7. to withdraw (an entry) from a race, match, etc

  8. (intr) billiards snooker

    • to make a shot resulting in a penalty

    • to make a lucky shot

  9. (tr) US to cancel (the name of a candidate) from a party ticket in an election

  10. (intr often foll by for) Australian informal to be struggling or in difficulty, esp in earning a living

  11. to treat (a subject) superficially

  12. you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours if you will help me, I will help you

  1. the act of scratching

  2. a slight injury

  1. a mark made by scratching

  2. a slight grating sound

  3. (in a handicap sport)

    • a competitor or the status of a competitor who has no allowance or receives a penalty

    • (as modifier): a scratch player

  4. the time, initial score, etc, of such a competitor

    • the line from which competitors start in a race

    • (formerly) a line drawn on the floor of a prize ring at which the contestants stood to begin or continue fighting

  5. a withdrawn competitor in a race, etc

  6. billiards snooker

    • a shot that results in a penalty, as when the cue ball enters the pocket

    • a lucky shot

  7. poultry food

  8. from scratch informal from the very beginning

  9. up to scratch (usually used with a negative) informal up to standard

  1. sport (of a team) assembled hastily

  2. (in a handicap sport) with no allowance or penalty

  1. informal rough or haphazard

Origin of scratch

C15: via Old French escrater from Germanic; compare Old High German krazzōn (German kratzen); related to Old French gratter to grate 1

Derived forms of scratch

  • scratchy, adjective
  • scratchily, adverb
  • scratchiness, noun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with scratch


In addition to the idioms beginning with scratch

  • scratch one's head
  • scratch someone's back
  • scratch the surface

also see:

  • from scratch
  • up to par (scratch)

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