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  • IPA(key): /skɹʌf/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌf

Etymology 1[edit]

See scurf.


scruff (countable and uncountable, plural scruffs)

  1. Someone with an untidy appearance.
    That candidate will never get the job: he's a right scruff.
  2. Stubble, facial hair (on males).
  3. (obsolete) Crust.
  4. (obsolete) Scurf.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

A kitten being carried by its scruff.
English Wikipedia has an article on:

1790, from earlier (1787) scuft, influenced by scruff (crust). Related to North Frisian skuft (back of the neck of a horse) and Dutch schoft (withers (of a horse)), from Proto-Germanic. Compare also Old Norse skopt (hair of the head), Gothic 𐍃𐌺𐌿𐍆𐍄 (skuft, hair of the head), Middle High German schopf (German Schopf).[1]


scruff (plural scruffs)

  1. The loose skin at the back of the neck of some animals.
  2. (rare) The back of the neck, nape; also scruff of the neck.
    He grabbed his unruly child by the scruff of the neck, and took him home.
Usage notes[edit]

Strictly refers to the loose skin at the back of the neck – found on many mammals, though not humans – rather than the back of the neck itself. While this distinction is not always observed, scruff is used almost exclusively in the phrase “to grab [someone/something] by the scruff [of the neck]”.



scruff (third-person singular simple present scruffs, present participle scruffing, simple past and past participle scruffed)

  1. (transitive) To lift or carry by the scruff.
    • 2023, Anastasia Ryan, You Should Smile More:
      She gently scruffed the kitten who was trying to climb her leg.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “scruff”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.