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Originally a northern word, and therefore presumed to come from a Scandinavian source, although the sense-development is unclear; compare Old Norse skálpr (sheath), Middle Dutch schelpe (shell).



scalp (plural scalps)

  1. (now dialectal) The top of the head; the skull.
  2. The part of the head where the hair grows from, or used to grow from.
  3. A part of the skin of the head, with the hair attached, formerly cut or torn off from an enemy by Native American warriors as a token of victory.
    Some tribes used to collect scalps to prove how many of the enemy they had killed in battle.
  4. A victory, especially at the expense of someone else.
    • 1993, John Frohnmayer, Leaving Town Alive: Confessions of an Arts Warrior, page 331:
      Pat Buchanan, in his ongoing presidential quest, claimed his first scalp, and Donald Wildmon's newsletter chortled that his efforts in opposing the NEA had paid off.
  5. (Scotland) A bed or stratum of shellfish; a scaup.
  6. (figuratively) The top; the summit.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Macaulay to this entry?)

Derived terms[edit]



scalp (third-person singular simple present scalps, present participle scalping, simple past and past participle scalped)

  1. To remove the scalp (part of the head from where the hair grows), by brutal act or accident.
  2. (slang) To resell, especially tickets, usually for an inflated price, often illegally.
  3. To screen or sieve ore before further processing
    scalped ore
  4. (surgery) To remove the skin of.
    • J. S. Wells
      We must scalp the whole lid [of the eye].
  5. (milling) To brush the hairs or fuzz from (wheat grains, etc.) in the process of high milling.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Knight to this entry?)