verb (used with object)

to write or draw in a sprawling, awkward manner: He scrawled his name hastily across the blackboard.

verb (used without object)

to write awkwardly, carelessly, or illegibly.


awkward, careless, or illegible handwriting.
something scrawled, as a letter or a note.

Origin of scrawl

1605–15; perhaps to be identified with late Middle English scraule to sprawl, crawl (blend of sprawl and crawl1)
Related formsun·scrawled, adjectiveun·scrawl·ing, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for scrawled

cramped, inscribed

Examples from the Web for scrawled

Contemporary Examples of scrawled

Historical Examples of scrawled

  • With it was a scrawled line, "I'm leaving the head and heels of the future to you."

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • And I saw that the address, scrawled in pencil, was in Anthony's handwriting.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • He then unfolded a second paper, on which some verses to Sarah Bernhardt were scrawled.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • These words were scrawled in pencil on the inside: 'I don't want it indeed.

  • Often she had scanned Lucia's scrawled programs for the names there.

    The Innocent Adventuress

    Mary Hastings Bradley

British Dictionary definitions for scrawled



to write or draw (signs, words, etc) carelessly or hastily; scribble


careless or scribbled writing, drawing, or marks
Derived Formsscrawler, nounscrawly, adjective

Word Origin for scrawl

C17: perhaps a blend of sprawl and crawl 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for scrawled



1610s, "write or draw untidily," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Middle English scrawlen "spread out the limbs, sprawl" (early 15c.), which possibly is an alteration of sprawlen (see sprawl (v.)) or crawl (v.). Related: Scrawled; scrawling. The noun is recorded from 1690s, from the verb. Meaning "bad handwriting" is from 1710.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper