- the back of the neck; nape
- the loose skin at the back of the neck of some animals
Origin of scruff; from Old Norse skrufr, a tuft of hair, forelock, variant, variety of skruf, altered by metathesis ; from skufr, tuft ; from Indo-European base an unverified form (s)keup- from source Old English scyfel, woman's headdress
Origin of scruffAlteration of dialectal scuft, scuff.
- Someone with an untidy appearance
- That candidate will never get the job, he's a right scruff.
- 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 kid 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]”.
(third-person singular simple present scruffs, present participle scruffing, simple past and past participle scruffed)
- To lift or carry by the scruff.
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 (skuft, “hair of the head”), Middle High German schopf (German Schopf).