Printable Version
Pronunciation: skreev Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To scrape or scratch, to make a scraping sound. 2. (Intransitive, slang) To draw picture on the pavement or sidewalks. 3. (British slang) To write. 4. (British regional-Lincolnshire) Of hooved animals, to lose their footing and fall with their legs splayed outwards.

Notes: This word is used several ways in different parts of the UK. We may have two words here, one referring to hooved animals, the other, to humans. It is purely English, though, for someone who draws on sidewalks or writes for others may be called a screever and either activity is called screeving.

In Play: The most recent citations of the word use its first two meanings above: "Professor Coxcomb could get the attention of his class—even the sleepers—by screeving the blackboard with his fingernails." Remember, the second sense is intransitive (no direct objects): "Jeremy tried working his way around Europe screeving, but he frightened people with the realistic holes he drew on the sidewalks, so they didn't give him much money."

Word History: Today's Good Word traces its origin back to PIE (s)ker-bo- "to scratch" an extension of (s)ker-/(s)kor- "to cut". (S)ker-bo- turned up with liquid metathesis in Latin as scribere "to write", German schreiben "to write", Swedish skriva "to write", Irish scriob "to scratch", Welsh cripio "scratch", and Lithuanian skrėbeti "scrape, scratch". (S)ker-/(s)kor- alone is the origin of English shear, Armenian k'erem "scratches", Albanian shkjer "rip apart", Greek keirein "to shear; destroy; reduce". The connection between writing and scratching or cutting goes back to the day when the only way someone could write was by scoring a piece of wood or stone. In fact, the word score descends from the same source. (Now, an e-nod or two to M. W. Gringa, who recommended we explore today's complex outlier of a Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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