Alternative formsEdit


A urethane sponge. The dark green upper surface is rough and can be used for scouring (sense 1) kitchenware, and kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English scǒuren (to polish, scour; to clean; to beat, whip), from Middle Dutch scuren, schuren (to clean; to polish) or Middle Low German schǖren,[1] of uncertain origin but probably from Old French escurer, from Medieval Latin scūrō, escūrō, excūrō (to clean off), from ex- (prefix meaning ‘thoroughly’) + cūrō (to arrange, see to, take care of),[2] from cūra (care, concern) (from Proto-Indo-European *kʷeys- (to heed)) + .

The word is cognate with Danish skure, Middle High German schüren, schiuren (modern German scheuern (to scour, scrub; to chafe)), Norwegian skura (to scrub), Swedish skura, Catalan escurar.


scour (third-person singular simple present scours, present participle scouring, simple past and past participle scoured)

  1. (transitive) To clean, polish, or wash (something) by rubbing and scrubbing it vigorously, frequently with an abrasive or cleaning agent.
    He scoured the burnt food from the pan.
    • 1751, John Upton, A Letter Concerning a New Edition of Spenser’s Faerie Queene. To Gilbert West, Esq., London: [] G. Hawkins, [], OCLC 723422580, section VI, page 36:
      If tranſcribers and printers, or editors, will be perpetually varying from the ſpelling of their author, we ſhall neceſſarily have a conſtant ſource of corruption: for by this alteration, which inſenſibly goes on from ſmaller to greater things, that antique caſt is loſt, which of itſelf carries ſo venerable an aſpect; and our modern editors, in this reſpect, reſemble the officious ſervant of the late learned antiquary Dr. Woodward, who in ſcowering off the ruſt from an old ſhield, which his maſter had juſt purchaſed, made it more reſemble the new ſcowered cover of an old kettle, than the ſhield of an ancient heroe.
    • 1762, [Laurence Sterne], chapter IX, in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, volume V, London: [] T. Becket and P. A. Dehondt, [], OCLC 959921544, page 52:
      They all looked directly at the ſcullion,—the ſcullion had juſt been ſcouring a fiſh-kettle.
    • 1815, Charles Smith, “Of the Most Remarkable Fossils Discovered in this County”, in The Ancient and Present State of the County and City of Cork. [], volume II, new edition, Cork, Munster, Ireland: [] John Connor, [], OCLC 317853577, paragraph 2, page 391:
      A light brown sand, of an exceeding fine grain, almost impalpable, from the river Sullane, near New-bridge, where it is found in plenty. It scours brass without scratching, cleans silver, and is excellent for casting the finer works, both of the brazier and silversmith.
    • 1865, Henry D[avid] Thoreau, “The Shipwreck”, in [Sophia Thoreau and William Ellery Channing], editors, Cape Cod, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor and Fields, OCLC 2278570, page 14:
      There were the tawny rocks, like lions couchant, defying the ocean, whose waves incessantly dashed against and scoured them with vast quantities of gravel.
  2. (transitive) To remove debris and dirt (from something) by purging; to sweep along or off by a current of water.
    • c. 1597 (date written), [William Shakespeare], The History of Henrie the Fourth; [], quarto edition, London: [] P[eter] S[hort] for Andrew Wise, [], published 1598, OCLC 932916628, [Act III, scene ii]:
      I will redeeme all this on Percies head, / And in the cloſing of ſome glorious day / Be bold to tell you that I am your ſonne, / When I will weare a garment all of bloud, / And ſtaine my fauors in a bloudy maske, / Which waſht away ſhall ſcoure my ſhame with it, []
      I will redeem myself by defeating Percy, / And at the close of some glorious day, / [I will] be bold to tell you that I am your son, / When I will be covered in blood like wearing a garment, / And my face is stained with blood as if wearing a mask, / Which, when washed away, shall scour my shame with it, []
    • 1865, Hugh Leonard, “Upper Section.—The James and Mary Shoals.”, in Report on the River Hooghly, [...] Bengal, 1865, London: [] George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, printers to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty, for Her Majesty's Stationery Office, OCLC 29697418, paragraph 92, page 28:
      It has already been explained that the ebb tide in the Hooghly is a much more powerful scouring agent than the flood tide, that the tide therefore should be used for scouring a channel in preference to the flood whenever it is practicable to use it, hence it is to the body of ebbing water that scours out the fine channel from Akelmeg to Crossing Creek that attention will be principally directed, and not to the flood that scours the channel near the Roopnarain entrance.
  3. (transitive, veterinary medicine) To clear the digestive tract (of an animal) by administering medication that induces defecation or vomiting; to purge.
    to scour a horse
  4. (transitive, intransitive, veterinary medicine) To (cause livestock to) suffer from diarrhoea or dysentery.
    If a lamb is scouring, do not delay treatment.
    • 1862, Augustus Voelcker, “X.—On the Scouring Lands of Central Somerset. [...] [Report of an Investigation Made at the Request of the Council of the Bath and West of England Society.]”, in Journal of the Bath and West of England Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture, Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, volume X, part I, London: James Ridgway, [], OCLC 8621654, section 3 (Examination of the Water Theory), page 191:
      It has been stated by trustworthy authorities that certain waters in the lias-formation possess scouring properties. [] Mr. Clarke likewise mentions two cases. "In one instance," he says, "a large piece of pasture-land was found to scour the cows kept upon it, to the great loss of the occupier, until he hit upon the expedient of cutting off the supply of spring-water from a neighbouring brook, and confining the supply to the rain-water held in the ditches,—the result of which has been that very little of the disorder has since appeared upon the land referred to. []"
  5. (transitive, intransitive, obsolete) To cleanse (something) without rubbing.
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “IV. Century. [Experiment Solitary Touching Nitre [marginal note].]”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], paragraph 362, page 95, OCLC 1044372886:
      It is reported, that in ſome Lakes, the Water is ſo Nitrous, as if Foule Cloathes be put into it, it ſcoureth them of it ſelfe: And if they ſtay any whit long, they moulder away. And the Scouring Vertue of Nitre is the more to be noted, becauſe it is a Body Cold; And wee ſee Warme Water ſcoureth better than Cold.
    • 1805 August, Bouillon Lagrange, “Extract from a Memoir on the Steeping of Wool, and the Influence of Its Different States on Dyeing. []”, in The Repertory of Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture, volume XXXIX (Second Series), London: Printed for J. Wyatt, [], OCLC 638049490, page 222:
      Flanders soap is the substance which appeared to act in the most advantageous manner; it scowers very speedily, and gives wool a degree of whiteness which it is extremely difficult to produce by any other means.
Derived termsEdit
Related termsEdit


scour (countable and uncountable, plural scours)

  1. The removal of sediment caused by swiftly moving water.
    Bridge scour may scoop out scour holes and compromise the integrity of the structure.
    • 1845, John Meryon, “An Account of the Origin and Formation of the Harbour of the Ancient Town of Rye; []”, in John Weale, editor, Quarterly Papers on Engineering, volume IV, number VII, London: John Weale [], OCLC 472502773, Section IV (Of the Four Sluices, and on Their Comparative Good and Evil Effects on Their Respective Channels. Of the Alleged Danger of an Open Channel. Of the Wicked Perversion of Harbour Funds to Individual Profit.), page 77:
      The general manner of working this sluice is to take in every alternate tide during the high tides in dry weather, and to let them off for scours for the harbour. In wet weather, or during neap tides, no scours are kept back, nor is it of any consequence to the harbour if no tides are suffered to pass up through the sluice at such times.
  2. A place scoured out by running water, as in the bed of a stream below a waterfall.
    • 1825, Pierce Egan, “The Chub, or Chevin”, in Sporting Anecdotes, Original and Selected; [], new considerably enlarged and improved edition, London: [] Sherwood, Jones and Co. [], OCLC 229421361, page 220:
      Fish as near the middle of the stream as you can in the spring months, and also on the shallows and scowers; but in the winter, in deep holes; let the bait drag two or three inches on the ground.
    • 1881, Grant Allen, “Speckled Trout”, in The Evolutionist at Large, London: Chatto & Windus, [], OCLC 156164762, pages 115–116:
      Trout always have a recognised home of their own, inhabited by a pretty fixed number of individuals. If you catch the two sole denizens of a particular scour, you will find another pair installed in their place to-morrow.
  3. A place where wool is washed to remove grease and impurities prior to processing.
    • 1984 September 19, Bill [William David] Sutton, “Address in Reply”, in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard): First Session, Forty-first Parliament, 1984: House of Representatives, volume 457, Wellington: P. D. Hasselberg, government printer, ISSN 0111-5642, OCLC 191255532, page 327:
      I am particularly interested in the wool processing indusries, which make a major contribution to the Hawke's Bay regional economy. There are five wool scours in the area, all of them located within the Hawke's Bay electorate. [] I am pleased to report that the prototype Drycom system was given its first full trial at the UEB Awatoto scour in Hawke's Bay.
Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English scǒuren, scure, skoure (to move quickly; to travel around in search of enemies),[3] from scǒur (attack, conflict; pang of emotional suffering), from Old Norse skýra (to rush in) and skúr (a shower; a shower of missiles),[4] perhaps influenced by the verb scǒuren: see etymology 1.[3]


scour (third-person singular simple present scours, present participle scouring, simple past and past participle scoured)

  1. (transitive) To search an area thoroughly.
    They scoured the scene of the crime for clues.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, “Knights and Squires”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, OCLC 57395299, page 131:
      Tashtego's long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek bones, and black rounding eyes— [] all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor of the unvitiated blood of those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest of the great New England moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal forests of the main.
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To run with speed; to scurry.
    • 1697, Virgil, “The First Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 403869432, lines 690–693, page 70:
      So four fierce Courſers ſtarting to the Race, / Scow'r thro' the Plain, and lengthen ev'ry Pace: / Nor Reigns, nor Curbs, nor threat'ning Cries they fear, / But force along the trembling Charioteer.
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To move swiftly over; to brush along.


  1. ^ scǒuren, v.(2)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 6 June 2018.
  2. ^ Compare “scour”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. 3.0 3.1 scǒuren, v.(1)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 6 June 2018.
  4. ^ scǒur, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 6 June 2018.

Further readingEdit