mid-13c., descriven, "interpret, explain," a sense now obsolete; c. 1300, "represent orally or by writing," from Old French descrivre, descrire (13c.) and directly from Latin describere "to write down, copy; sketch, represent," from de "down" (see de-) + scribere "to write" (from PIE root *skribh- "to cut").
From late 14c. as "form or trace by motion;" c. 1400 as "delineate or mark the form or figure of, outline." Reconstructed with Latin spelling from c. 1450. Related: Described, describes, describing.