A scrivener (or scribe) was traditionally a person who could read and write. This usually indicated secretarial and administrative duties such as dictation and keeping business, judicial, and history records for kings, nobles, temples, and cities. Scriveners later developed into public servants, accountants, lawyers and petition writers, etc.
Scriveners remain a common sight in countries where literacy rates remain low; they read letters for illiterate customers, as well as write letters or fill out forms for a fee. Many now use portable typewriters to prepare letters for their clients.
The word comes from Middle English scriveiner, an alteration of obsolete scrivein, from Anglo-French escrivein, ultimately from Vulgate Latin *scriban-, scriba, alteration of Latin scriba (as scribe).
In the Irish language a "scriobhneoir" is a writer, or a person who writes. It has nearly the exact same pronunciation as the English word "scrivener".
In ancient times, a scrivener was also called a calligraphus (pl. calligraphi).
A scrivener is also someone who scribbles. See scribe.
Scrivener can also refer to scrivener notaries, who get their name from the Scriveners' Company. Historically, scrivener notaries were the only notaries public permitted to practice in the City of London, the liberties of Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and the area within three miles of the City. Due to their geographical proximity to the embassies of many civil law countries, scrivener notaries are only appointed after five years articles to a practicing scrivener notary. Scrivener notaries must be fluent in one or two foreign languages and be familiar with the principles and practice of foreign law. The historical privilege of scrivener notaries was abolished by the Access to Justice Act 1999, since when any public notary may practice in the City of London and surrounding area.