From Scratch: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 29, 2023

"From scratch" is widely used to describe creating something from the beginning, using basic ingredients or elements, without any pre-made or readymade components. It's commonly used in cooking to indicate a dish made from raw, basic ingredients rather than using something pre-prepared. However, the phrase can apply to various contexts, like building a project, starting a business, or developing software, implying that the process begins at the most fundamental level.

In short:

  • It means creating something from the beginning with basic components.
  • It's often used to emphasize the authenticity or effort involved in the creation process.

What Does "From Scratch" Mean?

When someone says they are doing something "from scratch," they mean they are starting from the very beginning, using only the most basic materials or elements. It’s about building up from nothing rather than using parts that are already made. For instance, you might bake a cake "from scratch" using flour, sugar, and eggs instead of a boxed mix or build a business "from scratch" without any initial capital or investors.

Let's dig into its core meanings and usage:

  • It's often a point of pride, indicating personal effort and skill.
  • Used to describe authentic, homemade, or original creation processes.
  • In a broader sense, it can refer to starting any project, idea, or business without prior preparation or external help.
  • It emphasizes the authenticity and quality of the end product.
  • Similar phrases include "from the ground up," "from the beginning," and "starting with the basics."

Where Does "From Scratch" Come From?

The phrase has its origins in the sporting world of the 18th century, particularly in foot racing. The term was used to describe the starting point of a race, where a line was literally "scratched" into the ground. Runners who started "from scratch" received no handicap, meaning they began the race from the original starting line without any advantage.

This concept of starting from an initial point without any pre-existing advantages or materials was later adopted into general language. It has since evolved to mean starting from the very beginning or the basics without using any pre-prepared or pre-existing components.

10 Examples of "From Scratch" in Sentences

To help you understand when to use "from scratch," here are some examples from different situations:

  • It's half past twelve, and I'm still working from scratch on my project with full dedication.
  • After his computer crashed, he had to start the report from scratch.
  • The chef prides himself on making all sauces from scratch in his restaurant.
  • When asked if I needed help, I replied, "I'm good, thanks," preferring to build the model from scratch by myself.
  • While everyone seems to be on top of something, I chose to start from scratch, building my skills from the ground up.
  • As a startup, they developed their app from scratch with a small team.
  • If you give it a chance, starting a project from scratch can be more rewarding than following a pre-made template.
  • The filmmaker created his documentary from scratch, starting with just an idea.
  • They organized the community event from scratch with no prior experience.
  • She built her online business from scratch, starting with a laptop and an internet connection.

Examples of "From Scratch" in Pop Culture

The concept of starting "from scratch" is often depicted in pop culture, symbolizing hard work and originality.

Let's look at some examples:

  • “From Scratch” is an American romance drama miniseries created by Attica Locke and Tembi Locke for Netflix. Inspired by Tembi Locke’s memoir of the same name, it stars Zoe Saldaña and Eugenio Mastrandrea.
  • “Built from Scratch” is a book that tells the story of how two incredibly determined and creative people built a business from nothing to 761 stores and $30 billion in sales in a mere twenty years.
  • An online article titled “Scientists used ChatGPT to generate an entire paper from scratch — but is it any good?” discusses how a pair of scientists produced a research paper in less than an hour with the help of ChatGPT.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "From Scratch"

Here are some alternative phrases that express the same idea as "from scratch":

  • Starting from the beginning
  • Building from the ground up
  • Creating from the basics
  • Making from the fundamentals
  • Developing from zero
  • Beginning with the raw basics
  • Originating from the start
  • Initiating from nothing
  • Establishing from the base
  • Constructing from the core

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "From Scratch":

  • What does "from scratch" mean?

"From scratch" means creating something from the very beginning, using basic or fundamental elements, without any pre-existing or pre-made components.

  • How can I use "from scratch" in a sentence?

You can use it to describe the process of starting something from the beginning. For example: "She made the entire meal from scratch," or "They built the software system from scratch.

  • Is making something from scratch better than using pre-made components?

Making something from scratch often means more control over the process and can result in a more authentic or tailored product, but it usually requires more time and effort.

  • Can "from scratch" apply to digital or creative projects?

Yes, "from scratch" can apply to digital and creative projects like writing a novel, coding a program, or creating art, indicating starting from the basics without pre-existing templates or elements.

  • Why do people cook from scratch?

People cook from scratch to have better control over the ingredients for health, taste, or dietary reasons, and sometimes for the enjoyment and satisfaction of cooking.

  • Does starting a business from scratch require special skills?

Starting a business from scratch requires a range of skills including planning, financial management, marketing, and perseverance, along with expertise in the business's specific field.

  • Is learning a language from scratch difficult?

Learning a language from scratch can be challenging as it involves understanding basic grammar, vocabulary, and often a new alphabet or writing system, but it can be rewarding.

  • How does "from scratch" relate to self-taught skills?

When someone is self-taught, they often start from scratch, learning through resources like books, online courses, or trial and error, without formal instruction.

  • Can I remodel a house from scratch?

Remodeling a house from scratch usually means a complete overhaul, starting with the basic structure and redesigning or rebuilding most or all parts of the house.

  • What are the benefits of creating something from scratch?

Creating something from scratch can bring a sense of accomplishment, allows for full customization, and often results in a unique, personal product or outcome.

Final Thoughts About "From Scratch"

The phrase "from scratch" is a valuable concept for understanding and appreciating the process of creating or building something from the basic level. It's applicable in various contexts, from cooking to technology, and emphasizes the effort and authenticity in the creation process.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It represents starting from the beginning and using basic elements.
  • It's often associated with authenticity, effort, and customization.
  • The phrase can be applied in various contexts, including cooking, business, learning, and arts.
  • Starting from scratch allows for more control and often results in a more personalized outcome.

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