late 14c., "something written," earlier scrite (c.1300), from Old French escrit "piece of writing, written paper; credit note, IOU; deed, bond" (Modern French écrit) from Latin scriptum "a writing, book; law; line, mark," noun use of neuter past participle of scribere "to write," from PIE *skribh- "to cut, separate, sift" (cf. Greek skariphasthai "to scratch an outline, sketch," Lettish skripat "scratch, write," Old Norse hrifa "scratch"), from root *(s)ker- "cut, incise" (cf. Old English sceran "cut off, shear;" see shear (v.)) on the notion of carving marks in stone, wood, etc.
Meaning "handwriting" is recorded from 1860. Theatrical use, short for manuscript, is attested from 1884. The importance of Rome to the spread of civilization in Europe is attested by the fact that the word for "write" in Celtic and Germanic (as well as Romanic) languages derives from scribere (e.g. French écrire, Irish scriobhaim, Welsh ysgrifennu, German schreiben). The cognate Old English scrifan means "to allot, assign, decree" (see shrive; also cf. Old Norse skript "penance") and Modern English uses write (v.) to express this action.