The Old English verb “to write” is writan, 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 writan 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.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009.

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