c. 1300, descriven, "to see, discern," probably from Old French descrier "publish, proclaim, announce" (Modern French décrier), from Latin describere "to write down, copy" (see describe). From mid-14c. as "detect, find out, discover" (something concealed), also "discover by vision, get sight of." Since early 15c. the word has been more or less confused with descry (v.2). Related: Descried; descrying.