In hip hop, moving a record back and forth on a turntable in a rhythmic fashion. Performed by djs, the first scratching on wax was probably either Herbie Hancock's "Rock it," or an early song by GrandMaster Flash whose title escapes me at the moment. It was the one in which Fab Five Freddie was given a shout out. Flash is usually regarded as the inventor of the technique, whether or not he was the first to do it on a record.

scram switch = S = scratch monkey


1. [from `scratchpad'] adj. Describes a data structure or recording medium attached to a machine for testing or temporary-use purposes; one that can be scribbled on without loss. Usually in the combining forms `scratch memory', `scratch register', `scratch disk', `scratch tape', `scratch volume'. See also scratch monkey. 2. [primarily IBM, also Commodore] vt. To delete (as in a file).

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Kool Herc invented the skratch, which is actually spelled with a "k" in reference to turntablist manipulation. Grandmaster Flash was the first to skratch on a commercial record, which incidently was called The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel.

In cycling and other race sports:

In various types of race run under handicap systems which involve some participants receiving an advantage in terms of time or distance, the scratch mark is the datum from which the handicaps are calculated - the full distance of the race or the time at which the last competitor starts. By extension the competitor who receives zero advantage from the handicap system - thus, presumably, the strongest competitor - can be referred to as being "on scratch" or as "the scratch man" (or woman, obviously).

By extension, a scratch race is a race run without handicapping, i.e. with all competitors starting together or with no particular advantage - a normal race, in other words. In track cycling, the distinction is most commonly used in Australia, where there is a strong tradition of handicapped racing. Middle-distance scratch races have been a mainstay of the sport at mass participation levels in many other places (in the UK most track league meetings end up with a 20 km race for all competitors). A scratch race (now 20 km, previously 10 miles) has also long been an event at the Commonwealth Games, and as of the 2002 season 10 km women's and 15 km men's scratch races are to be held at the World Track Championships.

A few other meanings missing from Webster:

  1. n. The basic ingredients of a recipe (e.g. milk, flour, etc) that uses all basic ingredients, as opposed to prepared dishes or mixes purchased from a store. It is especially used for baked goods, e.g., My mother made this pumpkin pie from scratch.
  2. (Slang)n. Money; as if the stuff simply lies around waiting for someone to "scratch it up" like a chicken would (cf. transitive verb definition 4 below).
  3. "Old Scratch", a quaint colloquial name for the Devil.
  4. v.t. To withdraw an entry from a (horse) race. (cf. the obsolete "to scratch a ticket" below)
  5. v.i. (Pocket billiards, aka "pool") A shot that results in the cue ball going into a pocket, or off the table. A player who scratches loses his or her turn; in eight ball, a player who scratch while trying to sink the eight ball immediately loses the game. In very strict games "scratch" can mean fumbling the shot so that the cue glances off the eight ball, or even the draconian definition of Webster 1913 below (a shot not called beforehand).
A reference to money in the books of Iceberg Slim, most notably in Pimp: The Story of My Life (pimp).

Iceberg Slim was one of the most influential black writers for today's hip-hop scene, as he chronicles the day-to-day life of a pimp in the US ghetto.

Scratch is a documentary on the evolution of turntablism made in 2001 by Doug Pray. It features interviews with and footage of many scratch artists, including DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Mixmaster Mike, Grand Wizard Theodore and Q-bert.

It's available as a 2-disc DVD set - the second disc features several bonus items such as a multiangle scratch lesson from Q-bert and an example of scratch notation.

Scratch is well worth seeing for many reasons, but of chief interest is the astounding footage of DJ battles and championships, the attention given to the pioneers of the artform, and the analysis of its identity within hip-hop.

Official site:


Scratch (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Scratched (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Scratching.] [OE. cracchen (perhaps influenced by OE. scratten to scratch); cf. OHG. chrazzOn, G. kratzen, OD. kratsen, kretsen, D. krassen, Sw. kratsa to scrape, kratta to rake, to scratch, Dan. kradse to scratch, to scrape, Icel. krota to engrave. Cf. Grate to rub.]


To rub and tear or mark the surface of with something sharp or ragged; to scrape, roughen, or wound slightly by drawing something pointed or rough across, as the claws, the nails, a pin, or the like.

Small sand-colored stones, so hard as to scratch glass.

Be mindful, when invention fails,
To scratch your head, and bite your nails.


To write or draw hastily or awkwardly. "Scratch out a pamphlet." Swift.


To cancel by drawing one or more lines through, as the name of a candidate upon a ballot, or of a horse in a list; hence, to erase; to efface; -- often with out.


To dig or excavate with the claws; as, some animals scratch holes, in which they burrow.

To scratch a ticket, to cancel one or more names of candidates on a party ballot; to refuse to vote the party ticket in its entirety. [U. S.]


© Webster 1913

Scratch, v. i.


To use the claws or nails in tearing or in digging; to make scratches.

Dull, tame things, . . . that will neither bite nor scratch.
Dr. H. More.

2. (Billiards)

To score, not by skillful play but by some fortunate chance of the game. [Cant, U. S.]


© Webster 1913

Scratch, n.


A break in the surface of a thing made by scratching, or by rubbing with anything pointed or rough; a slight wound, mark, furrow, or incision.

The coarse file . . . makes deep scratches in the work.

These nails with scratches deform my breast.

God forbid a shallow scratch should drive
The prince of Wales from such a field as this.

2. (Pugilistic Matches)

A line across the prize ring; up to which boxers are brought when they join fight; hence, test, trial, or proof of courage; as, to bring to the scratch; to come up to the scratch. [Cant] Grose.

3. pl. (Far.)

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. Law (Farmer's Veter. Adviser).


A kind of wig covering only a portion of the head.

5. (Billiards)

A shot which scores by chance and not as intended by the player; a fluke. [Cant, U. S.]

Scratch cradle. See Cratch cradle, under Cratch. --
Scratch grass (Bot.), a climbing knotweed (Polygonum sagittatum) with a square stem beset with fine recurved prickles along the angles. --
Scratch wig. Same as Scratch, 4, above. Thackeray.


© Webster 1913

Scratch, a.

Made, done, or happening by chance; arranged with little or no preparation; determined by circumstances; haphazard; as, a scratch team; a scratch crew for a boat race; a scratch shot in billiards. [Slang]

Scratch race, one without restrictions regarding the entrance of competitors; also, one for which the competitors are chosen by lot.


© Webster 1913

Scratch, n.

In various sports, the line from which the start is made, except in the case of contestants receiving a distance handicap.


© Webster 1913

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