noun, plural scores, score for 11.

  1. the record of points or strokes made by the competitors in a game or match.
  2. the total points or strokes made by one side, individual, play, game, etc.
  3. an act or instance of making or earning a point or points.
  4. Education, Psychology. the performance of an individual or sometimes of a group on an examination or test, expressed by a number, letter, or other symbol.
  5. a notch, scratch, or incision; a stroke or line.
  6. a notch or mark for keeping an account or record.
  7. a reckoning or account so kept; tally.
  8. any account showing indebtedness.
  9. an amount recorded as due.
  10. a line drawn as a boundary, the starting point of a race, a goal line, etc.
  11. a group or set of 20: about a score of years ago.
  12. scores, a great many: Scores of people were at the dance.
  13. a reason, ground, or cause: to complain on the score of low pay.
  14. Informal.
    1. the basic facts, point of progress, etc., regarding a situation: What’s the score on Saturday’s picnic?
    2. a successful move, remark, etc.
  15. Music.
    1. a written or printed piece of music with all the vocal and instrumental parts arranged on staves, one under the other.
    2. the music itself.
    3. the music played as background to or part of a movie, play, or television presentation.
  16. Slang.
    1. a success in finding a willing sexual partner; sexual conquest.
    2. a purchase or acquisition of illicit drugs, as heroin or cocaine.
    3. a single payoff obtained through graft by a police officer, especially from a narcotics violator.
    4. a successful robbery; theft.
    5. any success, triumph, happy acquisition, gift, or win.
    6. the victim of a robbery or swindle.

verb (used with object), scored, scor·ing.

  1. to gain for addition to one’s score in a game or match.
  2. to make a score of: He scored 98 on the test.
  3. to have as a specified value in points: Four aces score 100.
  4. Education, Psychology. to evaluate the responses a person has made on (a test or an examination).
  5. Music.
    1. to orchestrate.
    2. to write out in score.
    3. to compose the music for (a movie, play, television show, etc.)
  6. Cookery. to cut ridges or lines into (meat, fish, etc.) with shallow slashes, usually in a diamond pattern, before cooking.
  7. to make notches, cuts, marks, or lines in or on.
  8. to record or keep a record of (points, items, etc.), by or as if by notches, marks, etc.; tally; reckon (often followed by up).
  9. to write down as a debt.
  10. to record as a debtor.
  11. to gain, achieve, or win: The play scored a great success.
  12. Slang.
    1. to obtain (a drug) illicitly.
    2. to steal.
    3. to acquire; be given.
  13. to berate or censure: The newspapers scored the mayor severely for the announcement.
  14. to crease (paper or cardboard) so that it can be folded easily and without damage.

verb (used without object), scored, scor·ing.

  1. to make a point or points in a game or contest.
  2. to keep score, as of a game.
  3. to achieve an advantage or a success: The new product scored with the public.
  4. to make notches, cuts, lines, etc.
  5. to run up a score or debt.
  6. Slang.
    1. to succeed in finding a willing sexual partner; have coitus.
    2. to purchase or obtain drugs illicitly.
    3. to elicit and accept a bribe.
  1. pay off/settle a score, to avenge a wrong; retaliate: In the Old West they paid off a score with bullets.


  1. an evaluative, usually numerical, record of a competitive game or match
  2. the total number of points made by a side or individual in a game or match
  3. the act of scoring, esp a point or points
  4. the score informal the actual situation; the true factsto know the score
  5. US and Canadian the result of a test or exam
  6. a group or set of twentythree score years and ten
  7. (usually plural foll by of) a great number; lotsI have scores of things to do
  8. music
    1. the written or printed form of a composition in which the instrumental or vocal parts appear on separate staves vertically arranged on large pages (full score) or in a condensed version, usually for piano (short score) or voices and piano (vocal score)
    2. the incidental music for a film or play
    3. the songs, music, etc, for a stage or film musical
  9. a mark or notch, esp one made in keeping a tally
  10. an account of amounts due
  11. an amount recorded as due
  12. a reason or accountthe book was rejected on the score of length
  13. a grievance
    1. a line marking a division or boundary
    2. (as modifier)score line
  14. informal the victim of a theft or swindle
  15. dancing notation indicating a dancer’s moves
  16. over the score informal excessive; unfair
  17. settle a score or pay off a score
    1. to avenge a wrong
    2. to repay a debt


  1. to gain (a point or points) in a game or contest
  2. (tr) to make a total score ofto score twelve
  3. to keep a record of the score (of)
  4. (tr) to be worth (a certain amount) in a game
  5. (tr) US and Canadian to evaluate (a test or exam) numerically; mark
  6. (tr) to record by making notches in
  7. to make (cuts, lines, etc) in or on
  8. (intr) slang to obtain something desired, esp to purchase an illegal drug
  9. (intr) slang (of a man) to be successful in seducing a person
  10. (tr)
    1. to set or arrange (a piece of music) for specific instruments or voices
    2. to write the music for (a film, play, etc)
  11. to achieve (success or an advantage)your idea really scored with the boss
  12. (tr) mainly US and Canadian to criticize harshly; berate
  13. to accumulate or keep a record of (a debt)

late Old English scoru “twenty,” from Old Norse skor “mark, notch, incision; a rift in rock,” also, in Icelandic, “twenty,” from Proto-Germanic *skura-, from PIE root *(s)ker- “to cut” (see shear).

The connecting notion probably is counting large numbers (of sheep, etc.) with a notch in a stick for each 20. That way of counting, called vigesimalism, also exists in French: In Old French, “twenty” (vint) or a multiple of it could be used as a base, e.g. vint et doze (“32”), dous vinz et diz (“50”). Vigesimalism was or is a feature of Welsh, Irish, Gaelic and Breton (as well as non-IE Basque), and it is speculated that the English and the French picked it up from the Celts. Cf. tally (n.).

The prehistoric sense of the Germanic word, then, likely was “straight mark like a scratch, line drawn by a sharp instrument,” but in English this is attested only from c.1400, along with the sense “mark made (on a chalkboard, etc.) to keep count of a customer’s drinks in a tavern.” This sense was extended by 1670s to “mark made for purpose of recording a point in a game or match,” and thus “aggregate of points made by contestants in certain games and matches” (1742, originally in whist).

From the tavern-keeping sense comes the meaning “amount on an innkeeper’s bill” (c.1600) and thus the figurative verbal expression settle scores (1775). Meaning “printed piece of music” first recorded 1701, said to be from the practice of connecting related staves by scores of lines. Especially “music composed for a film” (1927). Meaning “act of obtaining narcotic drugs” is by 1951.

Scoreboard is from 1826; score-keeping- from 1905; newspaper sports section score line is from 1965; baseball score-card is from 1877.


“to cut with incisions or notches,” c.1400; “to record by means of notches” (late 14c.); see score (n.). Meanings “to keep record of the scores in a game, etc.” and “to make or add a point for one’s side in a game, etc.” both attested from 1742. The slang sense, in reference to men, “achieve intercourse” first recorded 1960. Meaning “to be scorekeeper, to keep the score in a game or contest” is from 1846. In the musical sense from 1839. Related: Scored; scoring.

see box score; know the score; pay off (an old score); settle a score.

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