A scale is a device that is used for measuring something. Many different kinds of scales show the weight of a person or a thing:

  • A scale is used at a grocery store or a delicatessen to weigh food items such as meat and cheese.
deli scale
  • Babies are weighed on scales when they go to the doctor for a checkup.
baby scale
  • You can weigh yourself on a bathroom scale at home.
bathroom scale
  • Packages are weighed on a scale to determine the cost of shipping.
scale for weighing packages

A scale can also be used to represent quality. In the American educational system, letter grades represent the quality of a student’s performance in school:

  • grade scale A An "A" is a letter grade at the top of the grading scale.
  • grade scale F An "F" is also a letter grade, but it’s at the bottom of the grading scale.
  • Between "A" and "F" on the grade scale, the letter "B" stands for good, the letter "C" stands for average, and the letter "D" stands for poor.
  • A pay scale is used by some companies when deciding how much money to give to workers in the form of a salary or wages.

Scales are also found on the exterior of an animal’s body:

  • A snake is covered with scales. The scales protect the snake and facilitate movement.
  • Some fish are also covered with scales. The scales have to be removed before the fish is eaten.

When the word "scale" is used as a verb, it’s similar to the word "climb."

  • Bob scaled the side of the mountain in about two hours.
  • Firefighters scaled the side of a building to rescue people who were trapped by a fire.

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This page was first published on October 19, 2013. It was updated on October 24, 2016.