• Scale


    • IPA: /ˈskeɪl/
    • Rhymes: -eɪl

    Origin 1

    From Latin scāla, usually in plural scālae ("a flight of steps, stairs, staircase, ladder"), for *scadla, from scandō ("I climb"); see scan, ascend, descend, etc.

    Full definition of scale



    (plural scales)
    1. (obsolete) A ladder; a series of steps; a means of ascending.
    2. An ordered numerical sequence used for measurement.Please rate your experience on a scale from 1 to 10.
    3. Size; scope.
      • 2012-01, Robert L. Dorit, Rereading Darwin, We live our lives in three dimensions for our threescore and ten allotted years. Yet every branch of contemporary science, from statistics to cosmology, alludes to processes that operate on scales outside of human experience: the millisecond and the nanometer, the eon and the light-year.
    4. The Holocaust was insanity on an enormous scale.There are some who question the scale of our ambitions.
    5. The ratio of depicted distance to actual distance.This map uses a scale of 1:10.
    6. A line or bar associated with a drawing, used to indicate measurement when the image has been magnified or reduced
      • Schuster Hepaticae V|ixEven though precision can be carried to an extreme, the scales which now are drawn in (and usually connected to an appropriate figure by an arrow) will allow derivation of meaningful measurements.
    7. A means of assigning a magnitude.The magnitude of an earthquake is measured on the open-ended Richter scale.
    8. (music) A series of notes spanning an octave, tritave, or pseudo-octave, used to make melodies.
    9. A mathematical base for a numeral system.the decimal scale; the binary scale
    10. Gradation; succession of ascending and descending steps and degrees; progressive series; scheme of comparative rank or order.
      • MiltonThere is a certain scale of duties ... which for want of studying in right order, all the world is in confusion.
      • 2012, May 13, Phil McNulty, Man City 3-2 QPR, City's players and supporters travelled from one end of the emotional scale to the other in those vital seconds, providing a truly remarkable piece of football theatre and the most dramatic conclusion to a season in Premier League history.



    1. (transitive) To change the size of something whilst maintaining proportion; especially to change a process in order to produce much larger amounts of the final product.We should scale that up by a factor of 10.
    2. (transitive) To climb to the top of.Hilary and Norgay were the first known to have scaled Everest.
      • 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot (novel) Chapter IXAt last I came to the great barrier-cliffs; and after three days of mad effort--of maniacal effort--I scaled them. I built crude ladders; I wedged sticks in narrow fissures; I chopped toe-holds and finger-holds with my long knife; but at last I scaled them. Near the summit I came upon a huge cavern.
    3. (intransitive, computing) To tolerate significant increases in throughput or other potentially limiting factors.That architecture won't scale to real-world environments.
    4. (transitive) To weigh, measure or grade according to a scale or system.
      • ShakespeareScaling his present bearing with his past.

    Origin 2

    From Middle English scale, from Old French escale, from Frankish or another Old High German source skala /scāla. Cognate with Old English scealu ("shell, husk") (See shale and shell). compare French écale, écaille, Italian scaglia.



    (plural scales)
    1. Part of an overlapping arrangement of many small, flat and hard pieces of keratin covering the skin of an animal, particularly a fish or reptile.
      • MiltonFish that, with their fins and shining scales,
        Glide under the green wave.
    2. A small piece of pigmented chitin, many of which coat the wings of a butterfly or moth to give them their color.
    3. A flake of skin of an animal afflicted with dermatitis.
    4. A pine nut of a pinecone.
    5. The flaky material sloughed off heated metal.
    6. Scale mail (as opposed to chain mail).
    7. Limescale
    8. A scale insect
    9. The thin metallic side plate of the handle of a pocketknife.

    Derived terms


    1. (transitive) To remove the scales of.Please scale that fish for dinner.
    2. (intransitive) To become scaly; to produce or develop scales.The dry weather is making my skin scale.
    3. (transitive) To strip or clear of scale; to descale.to scale the inside of a boiler
    4. (transitive) To take off in thin layers or scales, as tartar from the teeth; to pare off, as a surface.
      • T. Burnetif all the mountains were scaled, and the earth made even
    5. (intransitive) To separate and come off in thin layers or laminae.Some sandstone scales by exposure.
      • Francis BaconThose that cast their shell are the lobster and crab; the old skins are found, but the old shells never; so it is likely that they scale off.
    6. (UK, Scotland, dialect) To scatter; to spread.
    7. (transitive) To clean, as the inside of a cannon, by the explosion of a small quantity of powder.

    Origin 3

    From Old Norse skál ("bowl"). Compare Danish skål ("bowl, cup"), Dutch schaal; German Schale; Old High German scāla; Gothic skalja, Old English scealu ("cup; shell"). Cognate with scale, as in Etymology 2.



    (plural scales)
    1. A device to measure mass or weight.After the long, lazy winter I was afraid to get on the scale.
    2. Either of the pans, trays, or dishes of a balance or scales.

    Usage notes

    The noun is often used in the plural to denote a single device (originally a pair of scales had two pans).


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