Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Date: 1700-1800
Origin: scuff 'back of the neck' (18-19 centuries), perhaps from Old Norse skoft 'hair of the head'

scruff

noun
     
scruff
1

by the scruff of the neck

if you hold a person or animal by the scruff of their neck, you hold the skin, fur, or clothes at the back of their neck
2 [countable] British English informal someone who looks untidy or dirty

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