Old English writan "to score, outline, draw the figure of," later "to set down in writing" (class I strong verb; past tense wrat, past participle writen), from Proto-Germanic *writan "tear, scratch" (source also of Old Frisian writa "to write," Old Saxon writan "to tear, scratch, write," Old Norse rita "write, scratch, outline," Old High German rizan "to write, scratch, tear," German reißen "to tear, pull, tug, sketch, draw, design"), outside connections doubtful.
For men use to write an evill turne in marble stone, but a good turne in the dust. [More, 1513]
Words for "write" in most Indo-European languages originally mean "carve, scratch, cut" (such as Latin scribere, Greek graphein, glyphein, Sanskrit rikh-); a few originally meant "paint" (Gothic meljan, Old Church Slavonic pisati, and most of the modern Slavic cognates). To write (something) off (1680s) originally was from accounting; figurative sense is recorded from 1889. Write-in "unlisted candidate" is recorded from 1932.
Old English writere "one who can write, clerk; one who produces books or literary compositions," agent noun from writan (see write (v.)). Meaning "sign-painter" is from 1837. Writer's cramp attested by 1843; writer's block by 1950.
Old English writ "something written, piece of writing," from the past participle stem of writan (see write). Used of legal documents or instruments at least since 1121.
Old English underwritan "write at the foot of; subscribe;" see under + write (v.). A loan-translation of Latin subscribere (see subscribe). Used literally at first; modern sense of "to accept the risk of insurance" (1620s) is from notion of signing a marine insurance policy. Meaning "to support by a guarantee of money" is recorded from 1890.
1560s, "reply in writing," from re- "back, again" + write (v.). The sense of "write again, write a second time" especially in a different form is by 1730. Related: Rewrote; rewritten; rewriting. The newspaper rewrite man, who works up copy for publication from information or stories phoned or sent in by reporters, is recorded from 1901. As a noun, "act of revising copy or a text," from 1926.
Old English writing "action of forming letters and characters," verbal noun from write (v.).
From c. 1200 as "text; body of poetry, narrative, etc. in written form; written material." From c. 1300 as "a particular text;" mid-14c. as "act of composing a written text." From late 14c. as "craft of writing;" also "one's own handwriting or penmanship." Also late 14c. in the broad sense of "system of human intercommunication by means of conventional visible marks." Also late 14c. as "act of sending a letter; a letter, message." Writing-desk is from 1610s.