Meaning of SCALE in English

I. scale 1 S2 W2 /skeɪl/ BrE AmE noun

1 . SIZE/LEVEL [singular, uncountable] the size or level of something, or the amount that something is happening

scale of

We had underestimated the scale of the problem.

on a large/small/grand etc scale

There has been housing development on a massive scale since 1980.

Most alternative technologies work best on a small scale.

A structural survey revealed the full scale of the damage.

I was shocked by the sheer scale (=very big scale) of the destruction.

on a global/international/world scale

Pollution could cause changes to weather patterns on a global scale.

Large firms benefit from economies of scale (=ways of saving money because they are big) .

2 . RANGE [countable usually singular] a whole range of different types of people or things, from the lowest level to the highest:

Some rural schools have 50 pupils, while at the other end of the scale are city schools with nearly 5,000 pupils.

up/down the scale

She gradually made her way up the social scale.

animals which are lower down the evolutionary scale (=the range of animals that have developed gradually over a long time)

3 .

FOR WEIGHING scales [plural] British English , scale [countable] American English a machine for weighing people or objects:

a set of kitchen scales

some new bathroom scales (=scales that you use to weigh yourself)

⇨ tip the balance/scales at ↑ tip 2 (6)

4 . MEASURING SYSTEM [countable] a system of numbers that is used for measuring the amount, speed, quality etc of something

on a scale

The earthquakes measured 7 on the Richter scale.

changes to the company’s pay scale

Your performance will be judged on a scale of 1 to 10.

We use a sliding scale (=in which prices are not firmly fixed) for charges.

5 . MEASURING MARKS [countable] a set of marks with regular spaces between them on a tool that is used for measuring, or on the side of a mathematical drawing:

a ruler with a metric scale

6 . MAP/MODEL [uncountable and countable] the relationship between the size of a map, drawing, or model and the actual size of the place or thing that it represents:

a map with a scale of 1:250,000

to scale

All our models are made to scale.

scale model/drawing etc (=one done using a strict scale)

a scale drawing of the Eiffel Tower

7 . MUSIC [countable] a series of musical notes that become higher or lower, with fixed distances between each note:

the scale of G major

8 . FISH [countable usually plural] one of the small flat pieces of skin that cover the bodies of fish, snakes etc

9 . TEETH [uncountable] British English a white substance that forms on your teeth

10 . WATER PIPES [uncountable] a white substance that forms around the inside of hot water pipes or containers in which water is boiled

11 . the scales fell from sb’s eyes literary used to say that someone suddenly realized something important

⇨ ↑ full-scale

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ phrases

▪ on a large scale

This technology has been developed on a large scale in the US.

▪ on a massive/huge scale

The drug is produced on a massive scale.

▪ on a grand scale (=very large and impressive)

The Romans built on a grand scale.

▪ on a small scale

They started by producing and selling on a small scale.

▪ on a human scale (=one that is small enough for people to understand and be happy with)

Architects have been asked to redesign some of the buildings on a more human scale.

▪ on a national scale (=involving the whole country)

The survey was carried out on a national scale.

▪ on an international scale (=involving more than one country)

Preparations to deal with an outbreak of the disease are being made on an international scale.

▪ on a global/world scale (=involving the whole world)

This is a product that can be sold in high volumes on a global scale.

▪ on an unprecedented scale (=more than ever before)

Propaganda techniques were used on an unprecedented scale.

▪ economies of scale (=ways of saving money that are available to large organizations)

Merging these departments will create economies of scale.

■ adjectives

▪ the full scale of something

He acknowledged that the full scale of the problem was not known.

▪ the sheer scale of something (=used for emphasis)

He was shocked by the sheer scale of the suffering he witnessed.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 2 & 4)

■ phrases

▪ the top of a scale

At the top of the scale come the predators.

▪ the bottom of a scale

He started at the bottom of the pay scale.

▪ the end of a scale (=the top or bottom)

At the other end of the scale, the youngest competitor was just sixteen years old.

▪ further/higher up a scale

Peasants managed their land as skilfully as some people higher up the social scale.

▪ further/lower down a scale

Bonuses are not paid to people lower down the salary scale.


▪ the social scale

At the other end of the social scale, life is a constant struggle to get enough to eat.

▪ the evolutionary scale (=the way in which animals have developed over time from simple ones to more complicated and more intelligent ones)

Birds are much lower on the evolutionary scale than dogs.

▪ a pay/salary scale

As a senior teacher, she has reached the top of her pay scale.

■ verbs

▪ move up/down a scale

Some farmers prospered and moved up the social scale.

II. scale 2 BrE AmE verb [transitive]

1 . to climb to the top of something that is high and difficult to climb:

Rescuers had to scale a 300-metre cliff to reach the injured climber.

2 . technical to make writing or a picture the right size for a particular purpose

scale something to something

The writing can be scaled to any size, depending on the paper.

3 . scale the heights to be extremely successful:

By the age of 21, he had already scaled the heights in the academic world.

scale something ↔ down/back phrasal verb

to reduce the amount or size of something ⇨ decrease :

The emergency aid programme has now been scaled down.

scale something ↔ up phrasal verb

to increase the amount or size of something:

Production at the factory is being scaled up.

• • •


▪ climb to move up, down, or across something using your hands and feet:

Most kids love climbing trees.


Several fans climbed onto the roof of the arena to get a better view.


She climbed down the ladder.

▪ ascend formal to climb up something:

He began to ascend the narrow winding staircase.


the first man to ascend Mount Everest

▪ go up to climb up something such as a slope or stairs:

He went up the steps to the platform.


Sonia was quiet as they went up the hill.

▪ scale formal to climb to the top of something such as a high wall or ↑ fence :

Somehow the men had scaled the twenty-foot wall without setting off the alarm.


Protestors scaled the walls of the building and hung banners.


Rescuers had to scale a one-thousand-foot cliff before they could reach the injured climber.

▪ clamber to climb somewhere with difficulty, using your hands to help you:

At last we saw the two girls clambering down the slope to safety.


Everyone clambered onto the back of the truck.

▪ scramble to climb somewhere quickly and with difficulty, using your hands to help you, especially when you are walking:

They scrambled up the steep rocky bank.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.