scrape through: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘scrape through’ mean?

The idiom "scrape through" means to just barely succeed or pass, often with difficulty or by the smallest margin.

Idiom Explorer

Unveiling Near-Defeat

The idiom "scrape through" is often used to describe a situation where someone barely manages to achieve a desired outcome or success. It can be heard in colloquial speech across the United States, and has both literal and figurative meanings.

One specific meaning of "scrape through" relates to passing an exam or completing a task with just enough effort or knowledge. It suggests that the individual barely met the minimum requirements or achieved the desired result. Students who have narrowly passed an exam or a course are often said to have "scraped through." This implies that they were on the verge of failure but managed to pass by the narrowest margin.

In a more literal sense, "scrape through" can describe physically squeezing or fitting through a tight or narrow space. It refers to barely managing to navigate a challenging or congested situation successfully. For example, someone might say, "I had to scrape through the crowded subway doors just before they closed," to express the idea of narrowly making it onto a train before it departs.

The idiom "scrape through" can also be used metaphorically to describe surviving a difficult or challenging period in life. It suggests that the individual faced severe obstacles or adversity and managed to endure or overcome them, albeit with great struggle or little room for error. This could refer to anything from financial hardships or personal crises to professional setbacks or health issues.

Another related idiom is "scrape along," which shares a similar meaning. It also refers to barely getting by or managing to survive in difficult circumstances. It can be applied to various situations, such as someone scraping along financially or scraping along on the brink of failure.

Similarly, the idiom "scratch by" is used to convey the idea of barely managing to get by or achieve a certain level of success. It suggests that the person is just barely able to scrape together enough resources or effort to make ends meet.

Another related idiom is "by the skin of one's teeth," which signifies barely escaping a difficult or dangerous situation. It implies that the individual had very little margin for error and just managed to come through the situation successfully. This idiom often conveys a sense of relief and the awareness that things could have easily gone wrong.

Lastly, the idiom "come through" can be related to "scrape through" in the sense that it also expresses successfully overcoming challenges or difficult circumstances. It suggests that the person managed to come out on the other side of a situation, perhaps against the odds. "Come through" can be used to describe someone's determination and resilience in the face of adversity.

While the exact origins and history of the idiom "scrape through" remain uncertain, its usage and understanding have become deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of the English language. As with many idioms, the metaphorical nature of "scrape through" allows it to resonate with individuals across different contexts and experiences. It captures the essence of facing challenges, surmounting difficulties, and emerging with success—albeit by the narrowest of margins.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "scrape through" can be used in a sentence:

  1. I had to study really hard, but I managed to scrape through my exams.
  2. After a close call, the team scraped through to the finals by just one point.
  3. Despite her lack of experience, she scraped through the job interview and got the position.

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