Scratches of measured width were produced on the surface of a IV grade fused silica window using a diamond tip. Two scratch morphologies were observed: plastic and brittle. The scratches were irradiated with a 355 nm laser pulse. The laser-induced damage threshold (LIDT) of the unscratched output surface was 15 J/cm2 at 3-ns. The LIDT of the scratched surface as a function of scratch width was then measured for both input and output surface scratches. Input surface scratches of width smaller than 10 micrometers did not influence the LIDT of the silica window. On the output surface, 7 $mUm wide scratches lowered the LIDT by a factor of two. For larger scratches, the LIDT reached an asymptotic value of 5 J/cm2 on both input and output surface. Possible reasons for this LIDT drop could be electric field enhancement in the cracks below the scratch, the presence of contamination particles in the scratch, or the weakening of the material because of existing mechanical flaws.© (1998) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.