Start From Scratch: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 29, 2023

The phrase "start from scratch" signifies initiating a project or task from the beginning without using any prior work, preparation, or materials. It's commonly associated with new endeavors, re-doing work, or overcoming failures.

In short:

"Start from scratch" means to begin something from the very beginning without relying on resources or advantages acquired previously.

What Does "Start from Scratch" Mean?

The idiom "start from scratch" conveys the idea of initiating something anew without leveraging any previously used plans, strategies, or materials. If you're starting something from scratch, you're essentially developing something from the ground up.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning include:

  • Implies starting without prior advantages or help
  • Associated with innovation, creativity, and perseverance
  • This can refer to tasks ranging from small activities to major projects

Where Does "Start from Scratch" Come From?

This phrase originated from the world of sports, particularly racing, where "scratch" was the line from which racers would start without any advantage or handicap. Over time, the phrase started being used in a wider context to indicate starting something anew or from the very beginning.

Historical Example

"When we begin to teach them to dress themselves we start from scratch. We have their strong interest to build on and no contrary learning to break down ."

- Your Child From One to Six, 1937

10 Examples of "Start from Scratch" in Sentences

Here are some examples of using the idiom in sentences:

  • I'm beat, but I'm determined to start from scratch tomorrow and tackle the project again
  • I realized the recipe wasn't working, so I decided to start from scratch.
  • Kidding aside, if we want to succeed in this venture, we may have to start from scratch and develop a comprehensive plan.
  • Learning a new language means you often have to start from scratch, understanding the basics first.
  • She had to start from scratch with her physical therapy, but with our 'get well soon' wishes, she remained motivated.
  • If they reject my manuscript, I may need to start from scratch with a fresh perspective.
  • I had to start from scratch and transform myself into a social butterfly to make new friends.
  • To fix the garden, I decided to start from scratch, pulling out all the weeds and planting new seeds.
  • Because of the company restructuring, many projects have to start from scratch.
  • When you start from scratch and build a business, you eventually reap the benefits of your hard work.

Examples of "Start from Scratch" in Pop Culture

The phrase "start from scratch" frequently appears in media related to new beginnings, overcoming failures, and innovative pursuits.

Some examples include:

  • “All the magic is in the space between mountains, where we have to unbecome everything we thought we were and start from scratch” is a quote from Glennon Doyle's memoir "Untamed."
    "What do you say we get out of this place and start from scratch, what do you say?" is a line from the drama film "Look Back in Anger."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Start from Scratch"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "start from scratch."

Some of these include:

  • Begin anew
  • Go back to the drawing board
  • Begin from the ground up
  • Start afresh
  • Start from the beginning

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Start from Scratch"

  • What does "start from scratch" mean?

"Start from scratch" means to begin a task or project anew, without utilizing any prior work, preparation, or materials.

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

You can use "start from scratch" to indicate the commencement of a new task or project, particularly when starting without any previous work or preparation, for example, "I had to start from scratch after my computer crashed and I lost all my work."

  • Where does the idiom "start from scratch" come from?

The idiom "start from scratch" has origins in the world of sports, particularly racing, where "scratch" was the starting line for racers without any advantage or handicap.

  • Can "start from scratch" be used in formal contexts?

Yes, "start from scratch" can be used in both formal and informal contexts, as it denotes the commencement of a new task or project without any prior work or preparation.

  • Does "start from scratch" have a negative connotation?

No, "start from scratch" doesn't have a negative connotation. It simply means to start something anew, often highlighting resilience, innovation, or perseverance.

  • Can I use "start from scratch" in a professional setting?

Yes, "start from scratch" can be used in professional settings to denote the start of a new project or a significant change in a current project or plan.

  • Can you use the phrase to describe learning a new skill?

Yes, "start from scratch" can be used to describe the process of learning a new skill from the very basics or beginning.

  • Is "start from scratch" known worldwide?

Yes, "start from scratch" is a common English idiom and is understood and used by English speakers worldwide.

  • Can "start from scratch" refer to personal situations?

Yes, "start from scratch" can refer to personal situations such as starting a new life after a major change or recovering from a setback.

  • What's the difference between "start from scratch" and "start from the bottom"?

"Start from scratch" refers to beginning something without any prior work or preparation, while "start from the bottom" implies starting at the lowest level in a hierarchy or system, with the intention to rise.

Final Thoughts About "Start from Scratch"

In summary, the idiom "start from scratch" emphasizes the resilience and determination involved in starting a new project or endeavor without any prior work or resources. It's a phrase that can inspire motivation and perseverance, regardless of the challenges one may encounter.

Key aspects of the phrase:

  • Represents a fresh start or a new beginning
  • Typically used in the context of projects, tasks, or personal situations
  • Often highlights resilience and determination

Use this idiom when you want to emphasize starting anew or convey the sense of a fresh beginning. The phrase is quite versatile and is applicable in a wide variety of contexts to effectively communicate the idea of initiating something from the very beginning.

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