1590s, transitive, "twist (something) like a screw, turn or cause to turn by the sort of pressure that advances a screw," " from screw (n.). From 1610s as "to attach or tighten with a screw."
Meaning "defraud, cheat" is from 1900; earlier it was "press hard upon, oppress" (1620s). Related: Screwed; screwing.
The slang meaning "to copulate" dates from at least 1725, originally usually of the action of the male, on the notion of driving a screw into something; screw is recorded by 1949 in exclamations as a euphemism. To screw up "to blunder" is recorded from 1942, earlier it was "to raise (rent or payment) exorbitantly" (1630s). The U.S. slang noun screw-up "a blunder, a mess" is by 1960, from the verbal phrase. Expression to have (one's) head screwed on the right (or wrong) way is from 1821. Screw your courage to the sticking place is Lady Macbeth.
"cylinder of wood or metal with a spiral ridge (the thread) round it," c. 1400, scrue, from Old Frenchescröe, escroue "nut, cylindrical socket, screw-hole," a word of uncertain etymology; not found in other Romanic languages.
Perhaps via Gallo-Roman *scroba or West Germanic *scruva from Vulgar Latin scrobis "screw-head groove," in classical Latin "ditch, trench," also "vagina" (Diez, though OED finds this "phonologically impossible"). OED Seems to lean toward a group of apparently cognate Germanic words (Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schruve, Dutch schroef, German Schraube, Swedish skrufva "screw"), but these are said elsewhere to be French loan-words.
Kluge, Watkins and others trace it to Latin scrofa "breeding sow," perhaps on some fancied resemblance of the holes or furrows left by a rooting swine (compare Portuguese porca, Spanish perca "a female screw," from Latin porca "sow"). Latin scrofa in the "sow" sense is a specific Medieval Latin use; the word is literally "digger, rooter" (from PIE root *sker- (1) "to cut").
Originally an apparatus for lifting weight or pressing with it, hence its later consideration as one of the mechanical powers. The meaning "metal pin or tapered bolt with a spiral ridge, used to join articles of wood or metal," is by 1620s (specifically as wood-screw by 1841). The meaning "a twist or turn to one side" is by 1709.
The sense of "means of pressure or coercion" is from 1640s, often the screws, probably in reference to instruments of torture (as in thumbscrews). Meaning "prison guard, warder" is by 1812 in underworld slang, originally in reference to the key they carried (screw as slang for "key" is attested by 1795). In student slang, "professor or tutor who requires students to work hard" (1851).
The meaning "metal instrument with a winding or spiral shape or motion, used to draw corks from bottles" is by 1650s. As short for screw-propeller, by 1838. The sense of "small portion (of a commodity) wrapped up in a twist of paper" is by 1836. The British slang sense of "salary, wages: is by 1858, but the notion in it is obscure. The slang meaning "an act of copulation" is recorded from 1929 (canting sense of "a prostitute" is attested from 1725). Slang phrase have a screw loose "have a dangerous (usually mental) weakness" is recorded from 1810.
"eccentric person," 1933, U.S. slang, earlier as a type of erratic baseball pitch (1928), from a still earlier name for a type of twist imparted to the ball in cricket (1840) and a twisting shot in billiards (1849); from screw (n.) + ball (n.1). Screwball comedy is attested by 1937, in reference to the work of Carole Lombard.
also screw-driver, "tool like a blunt chisel which fits into the nick in the head of a screw and is used to turn it," 1779, from screw (n.) + driver. Meaning "cocktail made from vodka and orange juice" is recorded from 1956. (Screwed/screwy have had a sense of "drunk" since 19c.; compare slang tight "intoxicated," or perhaps the notion is "twisted").
1640s, "strained or forced to the highest pitch" (a sense now obsolete;" past-participle adjective from screw (v.) By 1690s, of the face, eyes, etc., "twisted, contracted;" by 1770 as "attached or fastened with screws;" slang sense of "drunk, intoxicated" is by 1833. The verbal phrase screwed up earlier meant "tuned to a high or precise pitch" (1907), a figurative image from the pegs of stringed instruments; the meaning "confused, muddled" is attested by 1943.
mid-15c., scriblen, "to write (something) quickly and carelessly, without regard to correctness or elegance," from Medieval Latin scribillare, diminutive of Latin scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut"). Or perhaps a native formation from Middle English scriben "to write" (see scribe (v.)) + diminutive suffix -el (3). Classical Latin had conscribillare. The sense of "make unintelligible tangled lines on paper out of idleness or for amusement" is modern. Related: Scribbled; scribbling.
The noun, "hurried or careless writing," is 1570s, from the verb. The 19c. writers enjoyed the sound of scribble, based on their many elaborations of it in describing one another: scribblage, scribblative, scribblatory, scribbleable, scribbledom, but the 17c., beat them to two of the best: scribblement and scribble-wit.