Meaning – To start from the very beginning. To create something new with no experience, knowledge or advantage.
Example – 1. Steve Jobs started Apple from scratch. 2. If you want to start your own business, you will have to start from scratch and build it from the ground up. 3. You don’t need to buy pasta sauce – it’s very easy to make from scratch.
Origin – This idiom appears to come from the world of cricket. Back in the 19th century, the lines on a cricket pitch were scratched into the ground. Other sports such as boxing and running used the same system of scratching lines and starting points into the pitch or field. The idiom was therefore popularised and became a common term to mean to start at the very beginning.
Note – You can also use the idiom make from scratch for cooking or baking. Example: Did you make this cake yourself? Yes, I made it from scratch (i.e. I didn’t use a ready-made cake mix).
Other expressions and idioms meaning to start:
- from the outset – this has the same meaning as to start from scratch or to start from the very beginning. It can be used in formal and Business English contexts.
- from the get-go – this expression means the same as to start from the very beginning or to start from scratch. However, it is used more in conversation and is less formal than the expressions from the outset.
- to take up – this phrasal verb means to begin or start a new hobby or habit. For example: He took up the guitar when he was 18.
- from the ground up – this expression is used to mean to build or start something new. Example: Elderly people have to learn how to use social media from the ground up.
- from square one – this is just another way to say from the beginning. Example: It was a bad idea from square one. You can say, ‘Let’s start from square one’. However, the expression from square one is often used with go back to. When used with back it means to return to the beginning and start again. For example: When Edison burnt his factory down, he went back to square one and started building his factory from the ground up the very next.