up to scratch

up to scratch

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.
  3. to rub or scrape slightly, as with the fingernails, to relieve itching.
  4. to rub or draw along a rough, grating surface: to scratch a match on the sidewalk.
  5. 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.
  6. to withdraw (an entry) from a race or competition.
  7. U.S. Politics.
    1. to divide (one’s vote) though predominantly supporting one political party or faction.
    2. to strike out or reject a particular name or names on (a party ticket) in voting.
  8. to write or draw by scraping or cutting the lines into a surface: She scratched her initials on the glass.
  9. 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.
  3. to make a slight grating noise, as a pen.
  4. to earn a living or to manage in any respect with great difficulty: We scratched along that year on very little money.
  5. to withdraw or be withdrawn from a contest or competition.
  6. (in certain card games) to make no score; earn no points.
  7. 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.
  3. an act of scratching.
  4. the slight grating sound caused by scratching.
  5. the starting place, starting time, or status of a competitor in a handicap who has no allowance and no penalty.
  6. Billiards, Pool.
    1. a shot resulting in a penalty, especially a pocketing of the cue ball without hitting the object ball.
    2. a fluke or lucky shot.
  7. (in certain card games) a score of zero; nothing.
  8. Baseball. scratch hit.
  9. scratch wig.
  10. Slang. money; cash.


  1. used for hasty writing, notes, etc.: scratch paper.
  2. without any allowance, penalty, or handicap, as a competitor or contestant.
  3. Informal. done by or dependent on chance: a scratch shot.
  4. Informal. gathered hastily and indiscriminately: a scratch crew.
  5. done or made from scratch: a scratch cake.


  1. from scratch,
    1. from the very beginning or starting point.
    2. 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.


  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
  3. to scrape (the surface of the skin) with the nails, as to relieve itching
  4. to chafe or irritate (a surface, esp the skin)
  5. to make or cause to make a grating sound; scrape
  6. (tr sometimes foll by out) to erase by or as if by scraping
  7. (tr) to write or draw awkwardly
  8. (intr sometimes foll by along) to earn a living, manage, etc, with difficulty
  9. to withdraw (an entry) from a race, match, etc
  10. (intr) billiards snooker
    1. to make a shot resulting in a penalty
    2. to make a lucky shot
  11. (tr) US to cancel (the name of a candidate) from a party ticket in an election
  12. (intr often foll by for) Australian informal to be struggling or in difficulty, esp in earning a living
  13. to treat (a subject) superficially
  14. 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
  3. a mark made by scratching
  4. a slight grating sound
  5. (in a handicap sport)
    1. a competitor or the status of a competitor who has no allowance or receives a penalty
    2. (as modifier)a scratch player
  6. the time, initial score, etc, of such a competitor
    1. the line from which competitors start in a race
    2. (formerly) a line drawn on the floor of a prize ring at which the contestants stood to begin or continue fighting
  7. a withdrawn competitor in a race, etc
  8. billiards snooker
    1. a shot that results in a penalty, as when the cue ball enters the pocket
    2. a lucky shot
  9. poultry food
  10. from scratch informal from the very beginning
  11. 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
  3. informal rough or haphazard

v.c.1400, probably a fusion of Middle English scratten and crachen, both meaning “to scratch,” both of uncertain origin. Related: Scratched; scratching. Billiards sense of “to hit the cue ball into a pocket” is first recorded 1909 (also, originally, itch), though earlier it meant “a lucky shot” (1850). Meaning “to withdraw (a horse) from a race” is 1865, from notion of scratching name off list of competitors; used in a non-sporting sense of “cancel a plan, etc.” from 1680s. To scratch the surface “make only slight progress in penetrating or understanding” is from 1882. To scratch (one’s) head as a gesture of perplexity is recorded from 1712. n.2in Old Scratch “the Devil,” 1740, from earlier Scrat, from Old Norse skratte “goblin, wizard,” a word which was used in late Old English to gloss “hermaphrodite;” probably originally “monster” (cf. Old High German scraz, scrato “satyr, wood demon,” German Schratt, Old High German screz “a goblin, imp, dwarf;” borrowed from Germanic into Slavic, e.g. Polish skrzot “a goblin”). n.1580s, “slight skin tear produced by a sharp thing,” from scratch (v.). Meaning “mark or slight furrow in metal, etc.” is from 1660s. American English slang sense of “money” is from 1914, of uncertain signification. Many figurative senses (e.g. up to scratch, originally “ready to meet one’s opponent”) are from sporting use for “line or mark drawn as a starting place,” attested from 1778 (but the earliest use is figurative); meaning “nothing” (as in from scratch) is 1918, generalized from specific 19c. sporting sense of “starting point of a competitor who receives no odds in a handicap match.” Sense in billiards is from 1850. Scratch-pad is attested from 1883. 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)
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