from scratch

Idioms & Phrases

from scratch

From the very beginning, from the outset; from nothing. For example, I knew we'd have a problem from scratch. Similarly, to start from scratch means "to start from the very beginning," as in After the business failed, they decided to reorganize and start from scratch. This term comes from racing, where a competitor starts from the line scratched into the ground (whereas others may start ahead with a handicap). [Mid-1800s] Also see from the ground up; from the word go.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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