1. Zoology.
    1. one of the thin, flat, horny plates forming the covering of certain animals, as snakes, lizards, and pangolins.
    2. one of the hard, bony or dentinal plates, either flat or denticulate, forming the covering of certain other animals, as fishes.
  2. any thin, platelike piece, lamina, or flake that peels off from a surface, as from the skin.
  3. Botany.
    1. Also called bud scale.a rudimentary body, usually a specialized leaf and often covered with hair, wax, or resin, enclosing an immature leaf bud.
    2. a thin, scarious or membranous part of a plant, as a bract of a catkin.
  4. scale insect.
  5. a coating or incrustation, as on the inside of a boiler, formed by the precipitation of salts from the water.
  6. Often scales. Metallurgy.
    1. an oxide, especially an iron oxide, occurring in a scaly form on the surface of metal brought to a high temperature.
    2. Also called mill scale.such scale formed on iron or steel during hot-rolling.
  7. scales,
    1. a cause of blindness or ignorance, as regarding the true nature of a person, situation, etc.: You’re infatuated with her now, but the scales will soon fall from your eyes.
    2. unspecified affliction that caused Paul to become temporarily blind. Acts 9:18.

verb (used with object), scaled, scal·ing.

  1. to remove the scales or scale from: to scale a fish.
  2. to remove in scales or thin layers.
  3. to cover with an incrustation or scale.
  4. to skip, as a stone over water.
  5. Dentistry. to remove (calculus) from the teeth with instruments.

verb (used without object), scaled, scal·ing.

  1. to come off in scales.
  2. to shed scales.
  3. to become coated with scale, as the inside of a boiler.


  1. any of the numerous plates, made of various substances resembling enamel or dentine, covering the bodies of fishes
    1. any of the horny or chitinous plates covering a part or the entire body of certain reptiles and mammals
    2. any of the numerous minute structures covering the wings of lepidopteraRelated adjective: squamous
  2. a thin flat piece or flake
  3. a thin flake of dead epidermis shed from the skin: excessive shedding may be the result of a skin disease
  4. a specialized leaf or bract, esp the protective covering of a bud or the dry membranous bract of a catkin
  5. See scale insect
  6. a flaky black oxide of iron formed on the surface of iron or steel at high temperatures
  7. any oxide formed on a metal during heat treatment
  8. another word for limescale


  1. (tr) to remove the scales or coating from
  2. to peel off or cause to peel off in flakes or scales
  3. (intr) to shed scales
  4. to cover or become covered with scales, incrustation, etc
  5. (tr) to throw (a disc or thin flat object) edgewise through the air or along the surface of water
  6. (intr) Australian informal to ride on public transport without paying a fare
  7. (tr) Southern African slang to steal (something)


  1. (often plural) a machine or device for weighing
  2. one of the pans of a balance
  3. tip the scales
    1. to exercise a decisive influence
    2. (foll by at)to amount in weight (to)

verb (tr)

  1. to weigh with or as if with scales
  2. to have a weight of


  1. a sequence of marks either at regular intervals or else representing equal steps, used as a reference in making measurements
  2. a measuring instrument having such a scale
    1. the ratio between the size of something real and that of a model or representation of itthe scale of the map was so large that we could find our house on it
    2. (as modifier)a scale model
  3. a line, numerical ratio, etc, for showing this ratio
  4. a progressive or graduated table of things, wages, etc, in order of size, value, etca wage scale for carpenters
  5. an established measure or standard
  6. a relative degree or extenthe entertained on a grand scale
  7. music a group of notes taken in ascending or descending order, esp within the compass of one octave
  8. maths the notation of a given number systemthe decimal scale
  9. a graded series of tests measuring mental development, etc
  10. obsolete a ladder or staircase


  1. to climb to the top of (a height) by or as if by a ladder
  2. (tr) to make or draw (a model, plan, etc) according to a particular ratio of proportionate reduction
  3. (tr; usually foll by up or down) to increase or reduce proportionately in size, etc
  4. US and Canadian (in forestry) to estimate the board footage of (standing timber or logs)

n.1“skin plates on fish or snakes,” c.1300, from Old French escale “cup, scale, shell pod, husk” (12c., Modern French écale) “scale, husk,” from Frankish *skala or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *skælo “split, divide” (cf. Dutch schaal “a scale, husk,” Old High German scala “shell,” Gothic skalja “tile,” Old English scealu “shell, husk”), from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) “to cut, cleave, split” (cf. Latin culter “knife,” scalpere “to cut, scrape;” Old Church Slavonic skolika “mussel, shell,” Russian skala “rind, bark,” Lithuanian skelti “split,” Old English scell “shell,” scalu “drinking cup, bowl, scale of a balance”). In reference to humans, as a condition of certain skin diseases, it is attested from c.1400. As what falls from one’s eye when blindness ends (usually figurative), it echoes Acts ix:18 (Latin tanquam squamæ, Greek hosei lepides). n.2weighing instrument, early 15c.; earlier “pan of a balance” (late 14c.); earlier still “drinking cup” (c.1200), from Old Norse skal “bowl, drinking cup,” in plural, “weighing scale” from a noun derivative of Proto-Germanic *skæla “split, divide” (cf. Old Norse skel “shell,” Old English scealu, Old Saxon skala “a bowl (to drink from),” Old High German scala, German Schale “a bowl, dish, cup,” Middle Dutch scale, Dutch schaal “drinking cup, bowl, shell, scale of a balance”), from PIE root *skel- (1) “to cut” (see scale (n.1)). The connecting sense seems to be of half of a bivalve (“split”) shell used as a drinking cup or a pan for weighing. But according to Paulus Diaconus the “drinking cup” sense originated from a supposed custom of making goblets from skulls (see skull). Related: Scales. This, as a name for the zodiac constellation Libra, is attested in English from 1630s. v.1“to climb by or as by a ladder,” late 14c., from scale (n.) “a ladder,” from Latin scala “ladder, flight of stairs,” from *scansla, from stem of scandere “to climb” (see scan (v.)). Related: Scaled; scaling. v.2“remove the scales of (a fish, etc.),” c.1400, from scale (n.1). Intransitive sense “to come off in scales” is from 1520s. Related: Scaled; scaling. v.3“weigh in scales,” 1690s, from scale (n.2). Earlier “to compare, estimate” (c.1600). Meaning “measure or regulate by a scale” is from 1798, from scale (n.3); that of “weigh out in proper quantities” is from 1841. Scale down “reduce proportionately” is attested from 1887. Scale factor is from 1948. Related: Scaled; scaling. n.3“series of registering marks to measure by; marks laid down to determine distance along a line,” late 14c., from Latin scala “ladder, staircase” (see scale (v.1)). Meaning “succession or series of steps” is from c.1600; that of “standard for estimation” (large scale, small scale, etc.) is from 1620s. Musical sense (1590s), and the meaning “proportion of a representation to the actual object” (1660s) are via Italian scala, from Latin scala.

  1. One of the small thin plates forming the outer covering of fish, reptiles, and certain other animals.
  2. A similar part, such as one of the minute structures overlapping to form the covering on the wings of butterflies and moths.
  3. A small, thin, usually dry plant part, such as one of the protective leaves that cover a tree bud or one of the structures that contain the reproductive organs on the cones of a conifer.
  4. A plant disease caused by scale insects.

  1. An ordered system of numbering or indexing that is used as a reference standard in measurement, in which each number corresponds to some physical quantity. Some scales, such as temperature scales, have equal intervals; other scales, such as the Richter scale, are arranged as a geometric progression.
  2. An instrument or a machine for weighing.

In music, the sequence of tones that a piece of music principally uses. A composition in the key of C-major uses the C-major scale, made up of the white keys on a piano. A system of marks set at fixed intervals, used as a standard for measurement. In addition to the idiom beginning with scale

  • scale down
  • also see:

  • tip the balance (scale)
  • turn the tables (scales)
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