Words matter

Monday, December 30, 2013

Word History: Every western Indo-European language except English derives its verb for "to write" from Latin scrībere: écrire in French, escribir in Spanish, scrivere in Italian, scribaim in Old Irish, ysgrifennu in Welsh, skriva in Breton, skrifa in Old Norse, skrive in Danish and Norwegian, skriva in Swedish, schreiben in German, schrijven in Dutch.

The Old English verb "to write" is wrītan, from a Germanic root *writ- that derives from an Indo-European root *wreid- meaning "to cut, scratch, tear, sketch an outline." German still retains this meaning in its cognate verb reissen, "to tear." Only Old English employed wrītan to refer to writing, that is, scratching on parchment with a pen. English shows a similar contrariness in its verb read, being almost the only western European language not to derive its verb for that concept from Latin legere. 


Anonymous,  December 31, 2013 at 10:21 AM  

I wonder if this means that England was the only part of Europe where reading and writing were known before the Romans arrived.

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