Definition of scribe in US English:



  • 1historical A person who copies out documents, especially one employed to do this before printing was invented.

    • ‘The names of some of his patrons are known through his colophons, and it is probable that he primarily earned his living by being a teacher in the richer circles, rather than as a scribe.’
    • ‘The Psalter, datable to about 795, is known commonly as the Dagulf Psalter, for its chief scribe includes his name in one of the dedicatory poems, written in letters of gold.’
    • ‘After the words ‘Cum Santo Marco in soldo’ the scribe added ‘in uno scudo’ above the line of writing.’
    • ‘Bishko used this discovery to draw important conclusions about the nature of the Historia Silense, but he dismissed the inaccuracy itself as merely the error of an ignorant scribe.’
    • ‘Jean was an illuminator who established a thriving workshop in Bourges with the help of André Rousseau, a scribe, manuscript agent, and the librarian of the university.’
    clerk, secretary, copyist, transcriber, amanuensis, recorder, record keeper
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    1. 1.1informal, humorous A writer, especially a journalist.
      • ‘Burgess's first love was music and the Manchester-born scribe did not plan on becoming a writer but aspired instead to being a composer.’
      • ‘Like all sites conceived as digital brochures, it has far too much text which includes an overly lavish encomium by a Sunday newspaper scribe.’
      writer, author, penman, journalist, reporter
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  • 2historical An ancient Jewish record-keeper or, later, a professional theologian and jurist.

  • 3

    another term for scriber
    • ‘A scribe is an easy way to fit material to irregular surfaces.’
    • ‘Consider using a scribe for cutting Plexiglas without breaking it.’


[with object]
  • 1literary Write.

    ‘he scribed a note that he passed to Dan’
    • ‘Had it not been for the cover of this book, John would have sworn it had been scribed only a few years before.’
    • ‘Placing the bird on a perch that rested on the desk, Grace quickly scribed a short note; we shall arrive in Clew Bay tonight.’
    • ‘Opening the envelope, his eyes narrowed as he read the neatly scribed note included with the schedule.’
    • ‘Her vivid green eyes traveled back over the beautifully scribed lines of the communication.’
    • ‘She quickly scribed a few lines on the paper before Sid turned back around.’
  • 2Mark with a scriber.

    • ‘The barrel has a series of circles scribed round it, spaced so that each aligns with one of the levers which, on the organ, will open a pallet to admit air to a pipe for a specific note.’
    • ‘Photo 1 shows how to scribe a line with just a carpenter's pencil.’
    • ‘Small strange drawings were scribbled and scribed into the wet surfaces, simple childish cave illustration that seemed so alien to all that had preceded it.’
    • ‘I'd prefer to avoid it but find I cannot, so must learn the black art of re-scribing panel lines…’
    • ‘The first shop she stopped at was one by the name of Pewter Haven (as it was plainly scribed into a wooden sign that swung from over the doorway).’


Middle English (in scribe (sense 2 of the noun)): from Latin scriba, from scribere ‘write’. The verb was first used in the sense ‘write down’; in sense 2 it is perhaps partly a shortening of describe.