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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English screde [and other forms], a variant of shrede (fragment, scrap; strip of cloth; strip cut off from a larger piece; band or thread woven into fabric; element, streak) (whence shred (noun)),[1][2] from Old English sċrēad, sċrēade (a piece cut off; paring, shred), from Proto-Germanic *skraudō (a piece, shred; a cut, crack), from *skraudaną (to cut up, shred), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)ker- (to cut off). The English word is cognate with Old Frisian skrēd.[1] Doublet of escrow, scroll, and shred.


screed (plural screeds)

  1. (chiefly Ireland, Newfoundland, Scotland, dated) A piece or narrow strip cut or torn off from a larger whole; a shred. [from mid 14th c.]
    Synonym: scrid
    • 1813, William David Evans, “Letter I”, in Letters on the Legal Disabilities of Roman Catholics and Dissenters; and on the Dangers Apprehended from Their Removal, London: [] J. Ridgeway, [], →OCLC, page 13:
      "Weel done!" cried Mrs. Smith. "I trow ye gae her a screed o' your mind!"
    • 1824, “A Summer Morning”, in The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, volume XI, number XLVII, London: [] Henry Colburn [], →OCLC, page 472:
      The housewife hastens in the gleaming sun, / With watering-pan to sprinkle when it needs / The bleaching cloth which her own fingers spun, / Stretch'd on the orchard sward in whitening screeds; [...]
    • 1826, Mordecai Mullion [pseudonym; John Wilson], Some Illustrations of Mr [John Ramsay] M‘Culloch’s Principles of Political Economy, Edinburgh: William Blackwood; London: T[homas] Cadell, →OCLC, page 39:
      No sooner had we clapped eyes on the Leading Article, than, as usual, we recognized an old acquaintance. It is made up of alternate scraps and screeds from old numbers of the Review—the Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica, and the Scotsman newspaper!
  2. (chiefly regional Britain, Scotland, dated) A piece of land, especially one that is narrow.
    • [1795], An Act for Dividing, Allotting, Inclosing, Draining, and Improving the Commons and Waste Grounds, within the Several Parishes of Epworth, Haxey, Belton, and Owston, in the Isle of Axholme, in the County of Lincoln; [] (35 George III, chapter 107), [London: Parliament of Great Britain], →OCLC, pages 25–26:
      And it be further Enacted, That in all Caſes where any of the Lands and Grounds by this Act intended to be divided and incloſed ſhall adjoin on any Freeboard, Screed, or Parcel of Land left on the Outſide of the Fences of any adjoining Pariſh, Townſhip, or Place, which ſhall run into any of the Lands intended to be incloſed by virtue of this Act, ſuch Freeboard, Screed, or Parcel of Land ſhall be deemed and taken to be Parcel of the Lands hereby directed to be divided and incloſed, [...]
  3. (chiefly Northern England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, dated) A rent, a tear.
    Synonyms: cut, rip
    • 1786, Robert Burns, “To W. S*****n, Ochiltree. May—1785”, in Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, volume I, Kilmarnock, Scotland: [] John Wilson, →OCLC; reprinted Kilmarnock, Scotland: [] James M‘Kie, 1867, →OCLC, page 209:
      Yet when a tale comes i' my head, / Or laſſes gie my heart a ſcreed, / As whiles they're like to be my dead, / (O ſad diſeaſe!) / I kittle up my ruſtic reed; / It gies me ease.
  4. A piece of writing (such as an article, letter, or list) or a speech, especially if long.
  5. (by extension) A speech or piece of writing which contains angry and extended criticism. [from late 18th c.]
    Synonyms: harangue, polemic, rant, tirade, diatribe; see also Thesaurus:diatribe
    • 1939, Patrick Francis Quinn, “Pierre”, in The Fatalism of Herman Melville (unpublished B.A. and M.A. dissertation), Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin, →OCLC, page 76:
      When he [Herman Melville] had finished the first part of his novel [Pierre; or, The Ambiguities], and printed it, the publishers would have nothing to do with it. They claimed they had been deluded into accepting a villainous and blasphemous screed against religion and morality and all right living.
    • 1999, Marcellus Andrews, “A Preface in Three Parts: Economics as a Razor”, in The Political Economy of Hope and Fear: Capitalism and the Black Condition in America, New York, N.Y.; London: New York University Press, →ISBN, page 5:
      One of our primary tasks is to replace racist screeds like The Bell Curve and The End of Racism with sound economic arguments that are relatively simple to understand and yet serious enough to encompass divergent points of view.
    • 2014 July 25, Paul Rees, “‘We got off the coach and the National Front was there … People spat at us’”, in Alan Rusbridger, editor, The Guardian[1], London: Guardian News & Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 17 February 2020:
      One of the more regular correspondents to the club was an Everton fan, who'd send in an abusive screed each time Albion were due to play on Merseyside. He directed this at [Ron] Atkinson, urging him not to select his "monkeys" for the game.
  6. Chiefly in the plural form screeds: a large quantity.
    • 2001, Adam Kilgarriff, “Web as Corpus”, in Geoffrey Sampson and Diana McCarthy, editors, Corpus Linguistics: Readings in a Widening Discipline, London; New York, N.Y.: Continuum, published 2005, →ISBN, page 471:
      Compared to LOB [the Lancaster-Oslo-Bergen Corpus], the BNC [British National Corpus] is an anarchic object, containing 'texts' from 25 to 250,000 words long, screeds of painfully formulaic entries from the Dictionary of National Biography, conversations monosyllabic and incoherent, sermons, pornography, and the electronic discourse of the Leeds United Football Club Fan Club.
  7. (construction, masonry) Senses relating to building construction and masonry.
    1. A tool, usually a long strip of wood or other material, placed on a floor to be covered with concrete, a wall to be plastered, etc., as a guide for producing a smooth, flat surface.
      • 1833, James Gallier, “Of Oil Mastic”, in The American Builder’s General Price Book and Estimator, [], New York, N.Y.: [] [Minard] Lafever and [James] Gallier, [] Stanley & Co., [], →OCLC, page 42:
        When applied to large surfaces, strips or screeds of wood should be fixed to float from; and when the plain surface is formed, it is finished with the handfloat.
      • 1841, Minard Lafever, “Plastering”, in The Modern Builders’ Guide, 2nd edition, New York, N.Y.: William D. Smith, →OCLC, page 104:
        The term Screed, in plastering, is a stile formed of lime and hair, about seven or eight inches wide, gauged exactly true. In floated-work these screed are made at every three or four feet distance, vertically round a room, and are prepared perfectly straight by applying the straight-edge to them to make them so; and when all the screeds are formed, the parts between them are filled up flush with lime and hair, or stuff, and made even with the face of the screeds. The straight-edge is then worked horizontally upon the screeds, to take off all superfluous stuff.
      • 1991, Robert Matthews, “Plastering”, in Practical House Building: A Manual for the Selfbuilder, Leicester, Leicestershire: Blackberry Books, published 1998, →ISBN, page 77, column 1:
        The use of timber battens as screeds makes it easy to get the floating coat flat. Getting a blemish-free skim coat is more difficult.
    2. A tool such as a long strip of wood or other material which is drawn over a wet layer of concrete, plaster, etc., to make it smooth and flat; also, a machine that achieves this effect; a screeder.
      Synonym: strickle
      • 1973, T. W. Love, “Finishing Concrete”, in Construction Manual: Concrete & Formwork, Carlsbag, Calif.: Craftsman Book Company, published 2001, →ISBN, page 129:
        The screeds and vibrator on the machine finisher are set to give the proper surface elevation and produce a dense concrete. In most cases, there should be a sufficiently thick layer of mortar ahead of the screed to insure that all low spots will be filled. The vibrator follows the front screed and the rear screed is last. The rear screed should be adjusted to carry enough grout ahead of it to insure continuous contact between screed and pavement.
    3. A smooth, flat layer of concrete, plaster, or similar material, especially if acting as a base for paving stones, tiles, wooden planks, etc.
      • 1830, John Nicholson, “Plastering”, in The Builder’s Practical Guide: Containing a Complete Explanation of the Principles of Science, as Applied to Every Branch of Building: [], London: [] Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper, [], →OCLC, page 615:
        [T]wo workmen, provided with a tub of putty and a quantity of plaster of Paris, proceed to run the cornice. Before using the mould, they gauge a screed of putty and plaster upon the wall and ceiling, covering so much of each as will correspond with the top and bottom of the intended cornice. On this screed one or two slight deal straight-edges, adapted to as many notches or chases made in the mould for it to work upon, are nailed.
      • 1998, Warwick Rodwell, “The Archaeology of Church and Cathedral Floors”, in Jane Fawcett, editor, Historic Floors: Their Care and Conservation (Butterworth-Heinemann Series in Conservation and Museology), paperback edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire; Woburn, Mass.: Butterworth-Heinemann, published 2001, →ISBN, section 2.1.1 (Materials and Laying Techniques), page 41, column 2:
        A few early churches were floored with a screed of weak concrete, after the Roman fashion, the ingredients being lime mortar and crushed brick (opus signinum).
      • 1999, Chris de Jager, “Finishing”, in Building and Civil Technology N3, Cape Town, South Africa: Maskew Miller Longman, published 2007, →ISBN, section 10.1 (Floors), page 196:
        Nowadays they [PVC tiles] are manufactured with a backing that is coated with an adhesive (peel and stick) so that they may be laid straight onto a slurry-finished granolithic screed.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English screde, Early Middle English screda, a variant of shreden, shrede (to chop, cut up, hack; to cut to shape; to maim, wound; to prune, trim) [and other forms] (whence shred (verb)),[3] from Old English scrēadian (to cut up, shred; to cut off, prune), from Proto-Germanic *skraudaną (to cut up, shred), see further at etymology 1; later uses are derived from the noun screed.[4]


screed (third-person singular simple present screeds, present participle screeding, simple past and past participle screeded)

  1. (transitive, chiefly Northern England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, dated) To rend, to shred, to tear.
    Synonyms: cut, rip
  2. (transitive, Scotland, also figuratively, dated) To read or repeat from memory fluently or glibly; to reel off.
    • 1801, Robert Burns, “The Inventory. In Answer to a Mandate by the Surveyor of the Taxes.”, in Poems Ascribed to Robert Burns, the Ayrshire Bard, [], Glasgow: [] Chapman & Lang, for Thomas Stewart, [], →OCLC, page 48:
      He'll ſcreed you aff Effectual Calling, / As faſt as ony in the dwalling.— [...]
    • 1835, Robert Nicoll, “The Auld Beggar Man”, in Poems and Lyrics, Edinburgh: William Tait; London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co.; Dublin: John Cumming, →OCLC, page 11:
      Syne the hale kintra's clashes he screeds them aff han'— / He's a gabbin' bit birkie, the Auld Beggar Man.
  3. (transitive, construction, masonry) To use a screed to produce a smooth, flat surface of concrete, plaster, or similar material; also (generally) to put down a layer of concrete, plaster, etc.
    • 1924 February 21, “Rebuilding a Section of Street Railway at Milwaukee”, in Frank C. Wright, editor, Engineering News-Record, volume 92, number 8, New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 310:
      For this surfacing, the concrete is screeded and then covered with crushed red granite of 2- to 2½-in. size which is spread with shovels on the wet concrete, the quantity averaging about 55 lb. of stone per square yard.
    • 1939 July 15, “C.N.R. Build More Long-span Concrete Bridges”, in Samuel O. Dunn, editor, Railway Age, volume 107, number 3, Philadelphia, Pa.: Simmons-Boardman Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 107, column 1:
      Pouring of the slab was then started and, as the concrete was brought to full height it was screeded off to the proper level, employing screed guides which had been set previously to true elevation, with support on the slab reinforcing.
    • 1984, Peter J. Breed, “Constructing Concrete Pavements”, in Pavements Maintenance Specialist (AFSC 55150) (55150 02 7905; CDC 55150), volume 2 (Concrete Pavements), Gunter Air Force Station, Ala.: Extension Course Institute, Air University, →OCLC, page 37, column 2:
      To screed and finish street and airfield pavements, you need power screeds and finishers. [...] Figure 3-22 shows a power screed as it screeds concrete over 1/2-inch steel reinforcing.
    • 1993, Farzin Lackpour, “Concrete Superstructures”, in Parsons Brinckerhoff (company); Louis G. Silano and Arnold C. Henderson, editor, Bridge Inspection and Rehabilitation: A Practical Guide, New York, N.Y.; Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 38, column 1:
      Immediately after shotcreting, the repair surfaces should be screeded to remove high areas and to expose low areas. Low areas should be filled with a subsequent spray to ensure a true flat surface. After screeding, the entire surface should be given a flashcoat finish, unless a finish coat is specified.
    • 1998, U.S. Department of the Army, “Construction Procedures”, in Concrete, Masonry, and Brickwork: A Practical Handbook for the Home Owner and Small Builder, Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, published 1999, →ISBN, paragraph 5-63, page 131:
      Generally, a sufficiently thick layer of concrete should build up ahead of the screed to fill all low spots completely. The sequence of the operation is: screed, vibrate, then screed again.
    • 2006, Toby Buckland [et al.], “Outside”, in Ariana Klepac, editor, The House Book, Sydney, N.S.W.; London: Murdoch Books, →ISBN, page 12:
      Once a sufficient area of bricks has been removed, dry sand can be placed and screeded out before compacting, re-sanding and screeding to the correct level. The bricks are then re-laid and tapped into place to provide a seamless repair.
  4. (intransitive, Scotland) To become rent or torn.

Etymology 3[edit]

Probably imitative;[5][6] compare screech, skreigh.[6]


screed (plural screeds) (Northern Ireland, Scotland)

  1. (chiefly humorous) A (discordant) sound or tune played on bagpipes, a fiddle, or a pipe.
    • 1811, Andrew Scott, “Answer to Mr. J. M.’s Epistle”, in Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Kelso, Roxburghshire: [] Alexander Leadbetter, for the author; and sold by W[illiam] Creech, [], →OCLC, page 123:
      "Wi' hat in hand," sweet lass, quo I, / "Wer't in my power to sooth thy sigh, / My hame-bor'd whistle I wad try, / An' gie't a screed, / Atween whar Tiviot murmurs by, / An' bonny Tweed."
  2. The sound of something scratching or tearing.
    • 1789, David Davidson, “Spring”, in Thoughts on the Seasons, &c. Partly in the Scottish Dialect, London: [] the author; and sold by J[ohn] Murray, []; and W[illiam] Creech, [], →OCLC, pages 34:
      Right o'er the ſteep he leans, / When his well-pleniſh'd king-hood voiding needs; / And, ſploiting, ſtrikes the ſtane his grany hit, / Wi' piſtol ſcreed, ſhot frae his gorlin doup.— [...]


screed (third-person singular simple present screeds, present participle screeding, simple past and past participle screeded) (Northern Ireland, Scotland, rare)

  1. (intransitive, chiefly humorous) To play bagpipes, a fiddle, or a pipe.
    • 1731 May 17, “The North-Country-Man’s Description of Christ-Church; in a Letter to a Friend. Portferry, May 6th. 1731. [Julian calendar]”, in James Row, The Wounds o’ the Kirk o’ Scotland: In a Sermon Preech’d in St. Geil’s, the Great Kirk in Edinbrough, in the Year of Our Lord 1638. [], Dublin: [] J. Carson [], published 1732, →OCLC, page 22:
      [T]wa Cheels we White Sarks, and a wee Wean with a white Sark got aboon whar the Whiſtle-Pipes war, the yen lilted, and the other Skirled and Screeded till them, and ſtill I ſweeted, I thought they never wad hea done.
  2. (intransitive) To make a discordant or harsh scratching or tearing sound.
  3. (transitive, chiefly humorous, obsolete) To play (a sound or tune) on bagpipes, a fiddle, or a pipe.
    • 1811, Andrew Scott, “Epistle to a Brother Poet”, in Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Kelso, Roxburghshire: [] Alexander Leadbetter, for the author; and sold by W[illiam] Creech, [], →OCLC, page 29:
      In life's gay morn, or youthfu' prime, / Ere fancy droops her wing, / Screed up your reed, for that's the time / For bards to rant and sing; [...]

Etymology 4[edit]

From scree (loose, stony debris) +‎ -ed.


screed (not comparable)

  1. Strewn with scree.
    We clambered up a screed slope.
    • 1986, D[orothy] Michell, Australian Tales of Ghost and Fantasy, Sydney, N.S.W.: Management Developments Publishers, →ISBN, page 51:
      A safety fence edged the curve of the road and beyond this the screed slope increased in grade to a precipitous cliff.
    • 2009, Boston Teran [pseudonym], The Creed of Violence, Berkeley, Calif.: Counterpoint, →ISBN, page 172:
      Son and father reached the mouth of the canyon and were leading their mounts on foot up a screed hill face that looked down on the tracks.


  1. 1.0 1.1 shrēde, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ screed, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2017; “screed, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ shrēden, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ screed, v.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2017; “screed, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  5. ^ screed, n.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2017.
  6. 6.0 6.1 screed, v.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • screed on Wikipedia.Wikipedia
  • “Melanie & Mike” (20 July 1998), “Spotlight on … Screed”, in Take Our Word for It[2], archived from the original on 2017-07-03.