This is another idiom related to sports that can also be used in many situations. To settle a score with someone means to “get even” with someone or to “even up a score.” If you are playing a game or sport with someone, you want to win, right? If you don’t win, you would at least like to have a tie or be “even”. Maybe you lose one match, then you when another match and you have “settled” or “evened up the score.” It can be used in a good natured and fun way, such as when two fans are talking together, as in Example One below. It can also be used in a more sinister way, as in Example Two below.
Frank: I hope that the Ducks win the pennant this year. They got beaten so badly by the Penguins last year, and they are playing against them again in the finals.
Joe: Yeah, I would really like them to settle the score with those Penguins once and for all! Go Ducks!
Frank: Yep! Go Ducks! Quack Quack!
In the above example, the idiom is used literally in the terms of the scores that sports teams play for. The Ducks’ fan wants to get even with the other team; he wants his team to have a higher score and to beat the Penguins. Therefore, he wants to”settle the score” by being victorious over the other team.
Defense Attorney: Your honor, my client is completely innocent! He did not kill his wife’s lover!
Prosecutor: That isn’t true, you are lying! We know that your client did indeed murder his wife’s lover, and we have the evidence to prove it!
Defense Attorney: That is ridiculous! What would his motive possibly be?
Prosecutor: Why, to settle a score, of course! He knew that his wife was sleeping with your client, and he wanted to get back at her and get even by killing her lover! Isn’t it obvious? It was for revenge!
In the second example, the husband is accused of killing his wife’s lover. He wants to extract revenge on both of them, and to punish both of them. Therefore, he “settles the score” by murdering his wife’s lover. Now he feels like he is “even” with both of them for what they have done to him.