1530s, "to scrawl; to scribble; make random, unmeaning marks," from Dutch schrabbelen, frequentative of schrabben "to scratch" (ultimately from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut"). The intransitive meaning "scrape, scratch, or paw with the hands or claws" is from c. 1600; the meaning "to struggle, scramble" is recorded by 1630s, perhaps from or influenced by scramble. Related: Scrabbled; scrabbling.
1794, "a scramble, a confused struggle;" 1842, "a scrawling character in writing," from scrabble (v.) in its various senses. One of the scr- group of words of interlocking origin; also compare scramble, and scribble-scrabble "hasty writing" (1580s), a reduplication of scribble (n.). The popular word-forming board game, 1949, a proprietary name (registered U.S.), with capital S-. Theological polemicists of the 17th century had scrabblement as an insult for "unmeaning, rambling writing."
1610s, "write or draw awkwardly and untidily," a word of uncertain origin, perhaps from a specific use of Middle English scrawlen "spread out the limbs, sprawl" (early 15c.), which might be an alteration of sprawlen (see sprawl (v.)) or crawl (v.). Some sources suggest a contraction of scrabble. Related: Scrawled; scrawling.
The noun in the sense of "piece of unskilled or inelegant writing" is by 1690s, from the verb; the meaning "bad style of handwriting" is by 1710.
1580s (intransitive), "make one's way by clambering, etc., struggle or wriggle along," also "strive with others or jostle and grasp rudely for a share or for mastery;" a word of obscure origin, perhaps a nasalized variant of scrabble (v.) "to struggle; to scrape quickly." OED points to dialectal scramb "pull together with the hands," a variant of scramp, which is probably a nasalized form of scrape.
Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a school, ... a real, honest, old fashioned boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. [Jane Austen, "Emma"]
The transitive sense of "to stir or toss together randomly, cause to move confusedly" is from 1822. The transitive sense, in reference to radio signals, telephone voices, etc., "to make unintelligible," is attested from 1927, hence generally "to jumble, muddle." In U.S. football, in reference to a quarterback avoiding tacklers, by 1964. Related: Scrambled; scrambling. Scrambled eggs, broken into a pan, mixed with butter, salt, pepper, etc., and cooked slowly,is by 1843.
also *ker-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to cut."
It forms all or part of: bias; carnage; carnal; carnation; carnival; carnivorous; carrion; cenacle; charcuterie; charnel; corium; cortex; crone; cuirass; currier; curt; decorticate; excoriate; incarnadine; incarnate; incarnation; kirtle; scabbard; scar (n.2) "bare and broken rocky face of a cliff or mountain;" scaramouche; scarf (n.2) "connecting joint;" scarp; score; scrabble; scrap (n.1) "small piece;" scrape; screen; screw; scrimmage; scrofula; scrub (n.1) "low, stunted tree;" scurf; shard; share (n.1) "portion;" share (n.2) "iron blade of a plow;" sharp; shear; shears; sheer (adj.) "absolute, utter;" shirt; shore (n.) "land bordering a large body of water;" short; shrub; skerry; skirmish; skirt.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit krnati "hurts, wounds, kills," krntati "cuts;" Hittite karsh- "to cut off;" Greek keirein "to cut, shear;" Latin curtus "short;" Lithuanian skiriu, skirti "to separate;" Old English sceran, scieran "to cleave, hew, cut with a sharp instrument;" Old Irish scaraim "I separate;" Welsh ysgar "to separate," ysgyr "fragment."