What is the meaning of the word "notch" in this sentence:

As Keith rattled off the names of things they would need for the project, Sierra mentally added a notch to her list of "wanted" items.

Does this mean some kind of mark?

I am familiar with other meanings of this word "notch," but I'm not familiar with this usage. Can anyone please explain what this word means?

1 Answer 1


It's an idiom. The image is of making a permanent cut, with a knife, in a piece of wood. enter image description here

This use of "notches" on "tally sticks" is an ancient way of keeping count of something. People don't often do this anymore, but the idiom survives.

In this case the author is saying that Sierra is keeping a tally of things that she wants, and she mentally added one more item. I don't think it really works as a metaphor, since a "notch" is just a way to keep count, and not a useful device for remembering detailed lists. But that's more of a creative writing problem than an English language problem.

  • I agree, but sometimes remembering how many things you need to remember is like a "memory checksum". I was supposed to get four things at the store. Now, what was that fourth thing?
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 11:12

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