Good morning, fellow Word Nerds!

Today, I will describe to you the derivation of the word:

DESCRIBE

(Cute how I used the word in question to introduce the word in question, isn’t it?)

The most interesting part of this word is scribe. It comes from the Latin scribere, to write. The Latin scriba, meant public writer, scribe, doctor of the Jewish law. Interesting that they specifically attached the word to Judaism, with its emphasis on God’s written word. Scriba/Scribere comes from the Indo-European (s)ker, "to cut," where we get our word "shears". I’m guessing that (s)ker, cutting, led to scribere, writing, because writing in the ancient world meant scratching or cutting something into clay tablets. I’m reminded of Moses and the tablets with the 10 Commandments. 

                           BONUS: Thank God for the ancient Egyptians and their discovery of papryus, and the Han Dynasty in China 
                           for its discovery of papermaking! Can you imagine the weight of student backpacks filled with clay tablets? 
                          (I highly recommend this HyperHistory essay on the history of writing, due to the website’s Biblical perspective. 
                          Younger kids can check out this papermaking history site .)

De- is a very common Latin prefix meaning, "from." (Other English words using this prefix are defunct, descend) So, when you describe something you are writing from it. What you see, literally or imaginatively, is what you write. Of course, we use it for oral description, too.

On to another word: ASCRIBE

A- is a contraction of the Latin prefix ad-, which means "to."  (Other English words using ad- include adjoining, adjective.) Put ad- together with scribere, and the word means, "to write to." It’s like writing "heat" and "plant growth" under the word "sun." We even have the English phrase, "I wrote it off to…"

                      –I wrote her bad mood off to a lack of sleep.
                       –I ascribed her bad mood to a lack of sleep.

The Webster’s New World College Dictionary says it this way: "to assign (something) to a supposed cause; impute; attribute."                       

PRESCRIBE

Pre-, of course, means "before," so when your doctor writes a prescription, he is writing ahead of time what medicine you should be given.

And the word "prescription" circles us back to beginning of this blog, so here are more uses of scribere in English:

Scribe–a writer;
Script–a written play;
Scripture–God’s written word.

WORD NERD CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK: The prefix ad- takes different forms in front of different letters. Check your dictionary under ad-, and come up with at least five words using ad- in its various forms. BUT, you have to find ones I didn’t mention in this post!  Comment on this post to let me know what you come up with.

Blessings,
Voni

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