late 14c., scarifien, "make shallow incisions in (the body) to let blood or drain pus," from Old French scarifier "score, scrape" leather or hide (14c.), from Late Latin scarificare, from Latin scarifare "scratch open," from Greek skariphasthai "to scratch an outline, sketch," from skariphos "pencil, stylus" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut, separate, sift").
By mid-15c. of tree trunks. The meaning "cover with scars" (1680s) is a sense-shift from influence of scar (v.). Related: Scarified; scarifier; scarifying.
updated on January 19, 2022