Entries linking to unwritten
prefix of negation, Old English un-, from Proto-Germanic *un- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German, German un-, Gothic un-, Dutch on-), from PIE *n- (source of Sanskrit a-, an- "not," Greek a-, an-, Old Irish an-, Latin in-), combining form of PIE root *ne- "not." Often euphemistic (such as untruth for "lie").
The most prolific of English prefixes, freely and widely used in Old English, where it forms more than 1,000 compounds. It underwent a mass extinction in early Middle English, but emerged with renewed vigor 16c. to form compounds with native and imported words. It disputes with Latin-derived cognate in- (1) the right to form the negation of certain words (indigestable/undigestable, etc.), and though both might be deployed in cooperation to indicate shades of meaning (unfamous/infamous), typically they are not.
It also makes words from phrases (such as uncalled-for, c. 1600; undreamed-of, 1630s; uncome-at-able, 1690s; unputdownable, 1947, of a book; un-in-one-breath-utterable, Ben Jonson; etc., but the habit is not restricted to un-; such as put-up-able-with, 1812). As a prefix in telegramese to replace not and save the cost of a word, it is attested by 1936.
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.
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an unwritten law