Probably from a blend of the Middle English words scratten (to scratch) and crachen (to scratch).



scratch (third-person singular simple present scratches, present participle scratching, simple past and past participle scratched)

  1. To rub a surface with a sharp object, especially by a living creature to remove itching with nails, claws, etc.
    Could you please scratch my back?
    • Jonathan Swift
      Be mindful, when invention fails, / To scratch your head, and bite your nails.
  2. To rub the skin with rough material causing a sensation of irritation.
    I don't like that new scarf because it scratches my neck.
  3. To mark a surface with a sharp object, thereby leaving a scratch (noun).
    A real diamond can easily scratch a pane of glass.
  4. To remove, ignore or delete.
    Scratch what I said earlier; I was wrong.
    When the favorite was scratched from the race, there was a riot at the betting windows.
  5. (music) To produce a distinctive sound on a turntable by moving a vinyl record back and forth while manipulating the crossfader (see also scratching).
  6. (billiards) To commit a foul in pool, as where the cue ball is put into a pocket or jumps off the table.
    Embarrassingly, he scratched on the break, popping the cue completely off the table.
  7. (billiards, dated, US) To score, not by skilful play but by some fortunate chance of the game.
  8. To write or draw hastily or awkwardly.
    • Jonathan Swift
      Scratch out a pamphlet.
  9. To dig or excavate with the claws.
    Some animals scratch holes, in which they burrow.

Derived terms



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scratch (plural scratches)

  1. (countable) A disruption, mark or shallow cut on a surface made by scratching.
    I can’t believe there is a scratch in the paint already.
    Her skin was covered with tiny scratches.
    • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
      God forbid a shallow scratch should drive / The prince of Wales from such a field as this.
    • Joseph Moxon (1627-1691)
      The coarse file [] makes deep scratches in the work.
    • 1709, Matthew Prior, Henry and Emma, line 503
      These nails with scratches deform my breast.
    • 1893, Walter Besant, The Ivory Gate, Prologue:
      Thus, when he drew up instructions in lawyer language, he expressed the important words by an initial, a medial, or a final consonant, and made scratches for all the words between; his clerks, however, understood him very well.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess:
      A very neat old woman, still in her good outdoor coat and best beehive hat, was sitting at a polished mahogany table on whose surface there were several scored scratches so deep that a triangular piece of the veneer had come cleanly away, [].
  2. An act of scratching the skin to alleviate an itch or irritation.
    The dog sat up and had a good scratch.
  3. (sports)
    1. A starting line (originally and simply, a line scratched in the ground), as in boxing.
      (Can we find and add a quotation of Grose to this entry?)
    2. A technical error of touching or surpassing the starting mark prior to the official start signal in the sporting events of long jump, discus, hammer throw, shot put, and similar. Originally the starting mark was a scratch on the ground but is now a board or precisely indicated mark.
    3. (billiards) An aberration.
      1. A foul in pool, as where the cue ball is put into a pocket or jumps off the table.
      2. (archaic, US, slang) A shot which scores by chance and not as intended by the player; a fluke.
  4. (slang) Money.
    • 2006, Clive James, North Face of Soho, Picador 2007, p. 153:
      He and Bruce cooked up a script together, and Bruce flew home to raise the scratch.
  5. A feed, usually a mixture of a few common grains, given to chickens.
  6. (in the plural) Minute, but tender and troublesome, excoriations, covered with scabs, upon the heels of horses which have been used where it is very wet or muddy.
    • 1887, James Law, The Farmer's Veterinary Adviser
      These are exemplified in the scurfy, scaly affections which appear in the bend of the knee (mallenders) and hock (sallenders) and on the lower parts of the limbs, by scratches, and by a scaly exfoliation [].
  7. A kind of wig covering only a portion of the head.
  8. (music) A genre of Virgin Islander music, better known as fungi.

Derived terms




scratch (not comparable)

  1. For or consisting of preliminary or tentative, incomplete, etc. work.
    This is scratch paper, so go ahead and scribble whatever you want on it.
  2. Hastily assembled; put together in a hurry or from disparate elements.
    • 1988, James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, Oxford 2004, p. 740:
      Bluecoats began crossing the James on June 14 and next day two corps approached Petersburg, which was held by Beauregard with a scratch force of 2,500.
  3. (computing, from scratchpad) Relating to a data structure or recording medium attached to a machine for testing or temporary use.
  4. Constructed from whatever materials are to hand.
  5. (sports) (of a player) Of a standard high enough to play without a handicap, i.e. to compete without the benefit of a variation in scoring based on ability.
    • 1964, Charles Price, The American golfer, page 48:
      ... the shot that does most to make a genuine scratch golfer is the mashie shot up to the pin — not merely up to the green.
  6. Made, done, or happening by chance; arranged with little or no preparation; determined by circumstances; haphazard.
    a scratch team; a scratch crew for a boat race; a scratch shot in billiards
    a scratch race: one without restrictions regarding the entry of competitors

Derived terms


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