Headway Word of the Week

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scratch (verb)

If you scratch something, you make marks in the surface. A person can scratch with fingernails, or with something sharp like a knife. An animal can scratch with its claws, and a tree or bush with thorns.

  • The cat has scratched the door. I'll have to repaint it.
  • Tom had an itchy nose, so he scratched it.

Check out what you can scratch.

You can scratch something that is itchy.

  • Stop scratching that insect bite. You'll make it worse.

You can scratch something by accident.

  • Paula scratched her leg climbing over the fence.

You can scratch something on purpose.

  • Ben scratched his name in the trunk of the old tree.

You can scratch something off or out.

  • It took hours to scratch the paint off the bicycle.
  • Scratch out three boxes, and see if you have won a prize.

Check out these expressions

  • You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.
    (= if you help me, I'll help you)
  • It's a difficult problem. All the senior managers have been scratching their heads for days.
    (= thinking about a problem without finding a solution)
  • Although we know a lot more about life in the oceans than we used to, we have hardly scratched the surface of this fascinating area of research.
    (= we have only found out about a small amount)
  • At the dinner party, I couldn't think of anything to talk about. I was scratching around for something to say.
    (= desperately trying to find)

Check out these related words

  • itch
  • scrape
  • tear
  • cut

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⇒ Learn more words in the Word of the Week archive