Consonant Clusters 15 "Scr-" /skr/ (Advanced)


winchester bibleManuscript of the Winchester Bible, (Latin 12th Century)

While the cluster sc-/ sk- deals with the extension of two dimensional space, the related cluster scr- basically combines two dimensional space with one dimensional movement.

Movements are made on a surface. Surfaces can be scratched or scribbled on, but the marks that are left will be superficial and lacking in depth.

Schoolchildren may scrawl their names across their desks, but later when they have been reprimanded and made to scrub out their offerings, there will be little damage to the surface of the desks in question.

This cluster has an Indo-European base *skreibh, meaning to cut or incise marks on rock, wood etc. and so is well-represented in European languages.

Paper or parchment that has been cut and can be unrolled or extended also has the scr- cluster. From this we have scrolls, screens and manuscripts.

The influence of Latin is very prominent with the verb “write”, scribere, giving us script, scribble and scribe, as well as derivatives of the latter such as ascribe, describe, prescribe, transcribe etc.


Now match the words in the box to their definitions below. Hover your mouse over the sentences to reveal the answers (tap on mobiles).

  • scrabble
  • scrape
  • scratch
  • scrawl
  • screen
  • screw
  • scribble
  • scribe
  • script
  • scripture


1. the writings of the bible questionmark

2. to scratch or grope around with your fingers to find something questionmark

3. a long piece of paper that can be unrolled: to move graphics up or down a screen questionmark

4. a small metal rod that can be rotated into place: to fix things together by driving this object into a surface questionmark

5. a professional writer or copier of manuscripts, an official secretary questionmark

6. a clerk or notary who copied documents and wrote letters to court on behalf of others questionmark

7. to rub a sharp instrument against a surface in order to remove the top layer questionmark

8. to write very quickly and without much care questionmark

9. to mark or score the surface of something by rubbing it with something sharp: the mark this action makes questionmark

10. a style of printed letters: the text for a film or play questionmark

11. write very quickly and carelessly or rapidly draw meaningless lines on paper questionmark

12. a protective barrier: a flat surface on which images are projected or reflected questionmark

13. to rub a surface hard in order to remove dirt or ink, usually with a brush or rough cloth questionmark 



Now use the same words to complete the sentences:


1. A skill of pharmacists everywhere seems to be their amazing ability to decipher what a doctor ______questionmark______ on a prescription.

Flickr_-_Official_U.S._Navy_Imagery_-_Air_department_and_squadron_personnel_scrub_the_flight_deck.Scrubbing the decks2. Every morning the sailors would _____questionmark_______ the decks to make sure the ship was looking spick and span.

3. Cyril’s new TV was enormous. It had a 72 inch ______questionmark______!

4. My next door neighbour seems to spend half of his time dismantling parts of his car and then _____questionmark_____ them back together.

5. While some Christians believe in a literal translation of the ______questionmark______, other people point out that the world has existed for four and a half billion years rather than a mere six thousand years.

6. My son demonstrated his drawing prowess by _____questionmark_______ all over the walls in felt tip.

7. Ancient Egyptian _______questionmark_____ had such an important role in writing documents and keeping records of administrative procedures that they were exempt from paying tax.

8. When Cameron Williams forgot the lines from his ______questionmark______, he improvised by loosening his toga and producing a word perfect solo rendition of “Any Dream Will Do” from Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

9. Marilyn dropped a bag of marbles and spent the next ten minutes ______questionmark______ around on the floor trying to find them all.

10. The offer looked too good to be true, and sure enough when Daisy ______questionmark______ down to look at the small print, there were a number of conditions that made the deal far less attractive.

11. Our cats were so busy ______questionmark______ their claws into our sofa, that they failed to notice the big bowl of fish that had been put out for them.

12. DIY is certainly not my strong point. While I can just about ______questionmark______ old wallpaper off a wall, putting new wallpaper up is beyond my capabilities.

13. ______questionmark______ remain common in places where literacy rates are low. They read out documents and fill in forms on behalf of their clients for a fee.


Empire_state_buildingEmpire State Building – a famous skyscraper

The term skyscraper was coined to describe tall buildings springing up in American cities from the middle of the 19th century. It is an example of a calque or loan translation which has been translated word for word as “skyscraper” or “sky scratcher” into many other languages.

French has gratte-ciel, Russian has небоскрёб, Italian has grattacielo and Swedish has the eminently translatable skyskrapa. 

As can be seen from the Swedish translation above, the /skr/ sound is present in other languages. Norwegian has skrape for scrape, while Danish has skrabe.

Similarly, Icelandic has skrúfa for screw while Swedish has Skruv and Danish has skrue.

Romance scratching can be found in the Spanish rascar, the Romanian scărpina and the Italian scorticare, though with a vowel between the /sk/ and the /r/.

This feature is repeated in Italian in schermo (screen) and scarabocchiare (scribble) amongst others.

German and Dutch tend to modify the /skr/ to a /?r/. German has schrubben and Dutch has schrobben for scrub; German has Schraube and Dutch has schroef for screw. Dutch also has schrapen and schrabben for scrape and scratch. 

The influence of the Latin scribo (I write) is widespread for writing, scribbling and scrawling in many European languages. Spanish escribir, Italian scrivere, German schreiben and Norwegian skrive are just a few examples of the /skr/ cluster in relation to writing.

For the hasty pen-pushers, escrivinhar is Portuguese for scrawl while Croatian, Slovenian and Bosnian have škrabati.


That is the end of my scribbling after scraping enough material together for this post. Scram!




Manuscript: By Unknown Miniaturist, English (active 1160-1175 in Winchester) (Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Scrubbing the decks: By Official Navy Page from United States of America MCSN George M. Bell/U.S. Navy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Empire State Building: By Emiliano Marin (http://emon.centrostamparb.com , specifically [1]) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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