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."
updated on February 22, 2022