First, let me make it clear that English is not my primary language; I'm Brazilian and I speak Portuguese.

I'm reading an RPG book ("Heroes of the Fallen Lands") and I crossed the verb scour being used in many ways that I didn't quite understand. I assume the meanings are similar, but I can't put my finger in it.

  1. You lead the fight (...) scouring them with the divine energy.
  2. You call forth a mote of divine light that reveals and scours your foes.
  3. Unleashing a burst of the divine radiance that scoured the primordials (...)
  4. Drawing on the power of elemental cold lets you scour your foes.

I assume all of those meant some kind of damage, but I can't understand how it is meant to be damaging. What would be the meaning of the verb in those sentences? If possible, please give some synonyms applicable to this case or even rewrite the sentences.

EDIT: After at least 4 downvotes I discovered that being concise is not a good thing here. I checked Merriam-Webster, Google Dictionary, AudioEnglish, TheFreeDictionary, Oxford, Michaelis, Longman, and some other pocket dictionaries that I've used over the years.

The main meanings that I found was rubbing or scrubbing something, not quite right since energy, light, radiance and cold aren't tangible things (at least not at first). So neither of those would apply.

Some more obscure meaning that I found was to clear some place of outlaws or of something bad or unjust. That also doesn't apply to all 4 cases I brought, maybe to the first. On the context its clear that the light, radiance, and cold doesn't get rid of anything.

That I thought about something purifying something, maybe in the sense of purging. But again, only in the first sentence this meaning would apply.

Lastly, I thought scour also could meant rinse or washing something with lots of water (or other liquid). This could actually be a fit. Energy, light, radiance and cold can indeed wash over an area or over something. But it didn't seemed to be a usual way for this verb to be used and even more, be used FOUR times and many places of a book. Also, all the sentences can have the implication of some pain being inflicted, maybe by burning (cold and radiance burn).

So I came here to find out if that could be the case, and what could a English speaker make from the sentences on a first read. That was also one of the motives I didn't brought any of the meanings I found, I wanted to have a first impression from a reader, not biasing them to any meaning.

Again, pardon my conciseness...

  • 1
    I found the exact meaning in the first dictionary I checked: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scour
    – Hugo
    Oct 27, 2011 at 5:53
  • 1
    Wow, -4? What was I supposed to do? List all the previous dictionaries that I used and discuss how I didn't understand how it fitted? I tried to be concise in my question, and how I said in the first line, English is not my primary language. Oct 27, 2011 at 10:21
  • Yes, questions are expected to show some research effort. In another comment you mentioned you checked Merriam-Webster. Check again, look at definition 2.
    – Hugo
    Oct 27, 2011 at 10:27
  • 3
    I edited my question... I hope it clears the matter of my prior research. Oct 27, 2011 at 10:49

3 Answers 3


This is not an accepted use of the word "scour". The author doesn't know how to use the word properly. He is probably using the word in what he thinks is an archaic sense in order to make his book sound more medieval, but he gets it wrong. I suspect he may be mixing up "scour" and "scourge".

  • Humm, maybe this is the cause of my confusion. Scourge could fit those cases... maybe the author though scour and scourge share a common root? Oct 27, 2011 at 11:10
  • I went into some research looking at words like scourge. I found one word, fustigar (portuguese for fustigate) that might be just what I need. It means to punish severely and it also applies to things like wind, cold, and rain, eg, the rain fustigated the land, or, the cold wind fustigated his face. I don't know if fustigate can be used in english the same way as in portuguese, but for me it seems to be a perfect fit. Oct 27, 2011 at 12:09
  • I think you're right. You could twist and turn to make scour somehow meaningful in these sentences, but scourge fits effortlessly.
    – user13141
    Oct 27, 2011 at 12:26

One of the uses of the verb scour comes from a tradition of cleaning pots and pans, using a metallic brush or cloth and scrubbing vigorously, effectively inflicting intense punishment. I suspect the use of the verb in your book comes from that idea.

  • I checked many dictionaries (Merriam-Webster, Oxford, TheFreeDictionary, AudioEnglish, etc) and the closest thing I could think of was something washing over something. I don't think rubbing or scrubbing would fit here since it mentions energy, light, cold and radiance, neither of those are tangible. Oct 27, 2011 at 10:19
  • Check Merrian-Webster again, definition 2.
    – Hugo
    Oct 27, 2011 at 10:26
  • Hey Hugo, def 2 also don't applies since by the context only the first line about would definetely mean getting hid of them. I never met this word before this text, the dictionaries didn't gave me much help (I was thinking purge at first, but it also doesn't quite fit), then I thought about something washing/flooding/torrenting over another thing. Then I came here to try to clear this out (and I tried to be concise in my question, my bad, the other stackexchange that I'm into prize conciseness and objectiveness). Oct 27, 2011 at 10:36

This usage of "scouring" is indubitably meant to sound "medieval", following the example of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings ("The Scouring of the Shire").

To be accurate, neither Tolkien nor Lord of the Rings were set in medieval times, however.

It's not a word that likes to be overused, as your book certainly did.

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