scruff (countable and uncountable, plural scruffs)
- Someone with an untidy appearance.
- That candidate will never get the job: he's a right scruff.
- Stubble, facial hair (on males).
- (obsolete) Crust.
- (obsolete) Scurf.
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).
scruff (plural scruffs)
- The loose skin at the back of the neck of some animals.
- (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.
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)
- (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.
- ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “scruff”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
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