Is there a single word that means "writing from memory?"

Just as when one recites a poem or speech, he or she reproduces it from memory verbally, is there a single word that expresses the same reproduction, but via written text?

One option might be rewrite, but depending on context, this either does not imply from memory, or implies that the reproduction is deliberately inexact.

Another option might be transcribe, especially in the context of being dictated to, but similar to rewrite, this often does not imply being done from memory.


8 Answers 8


The closest answer to your question is undoubtedly the verbal construction transcribe from memory, although it is not a single word.

  • (If there is, I promise to eat my rather delightful multi-pointed yellow tiara.)
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 31, 2014 at 5:02
  • 1
    The phrasal verb put down (in pen, in writing) seems to connote the transcription of memory, as if to relieve a burden. But it’s also used in other scenarios.
    – Jon Purdy
    Dec 31, 2014 at 5:42
  • 1
    @JonPurdy - True, though in this context I've mostly encountered that phrase as part of the longer expression 'to put down in writing'. Which reminds me that we also have 'to set down in writing'.
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 31, 2014 at 5:48
  • Write is the modern day spelling of the Old English writan, meaning “to score, outline, draw the figure of.” It has the sense of “to put/set down in writing"
    – Misti
    Dec 31, 2014 at 14:22


  1. verb : tell someone about something; give an account of an event or experience.
    "I recounted the tale to Steve" "Gretchen recounted everything she could remember about what happened that night"

  2. noun : an act or instance of giving an account of an event or experience.
    "one woman's recount of a prolonged battle with “huge centipedes.”"

I gave him pen and paper, and asked him to recount his experiences in WWII.

I need a soldier's recount of the events to study PTSD; I can't use the over-embellished accounts of combat photographers.

It still needs the proper context to denote that it's written and not a verbal account but it captures the idea of, "from memory."

If I need, "a detailed account of what has been achieved," I expect you to use all your available resources. If I ask you to recount it, I'm solely asking you to recall from memory, your experience.


  1. verb : bring (a fact, event, or situation) back into one's mind, especially so as to recount it to others; remember.

Here, the author recalls his experience in WWII.

Here, the author wrote from memory about his experiences in WWII.

Luckily, there's Stack Exchange, so I won't ever have to recount this. I'll just have to recall that I wrote it.


A word you might be able to use, akin to recite, is rescribe. It means exactly what it appears to mean: to write again, and — although it doesn’t appear to have been used often in relation to writing from memory — I believe it may be able to work in some circumstances in much the same way as recite or rehearse.

rescribe v.

1. intrans. To write back, write in reply. Obsolete.

2. trans. To rewrite, write again. Now rare.



I don't think there is a specific single word but you can consider the phrasal verb write (something) out depending on the context. It might emphasize the idea better than just write in everyday speech.

to put thoughts into writing, rather than keeping them in memory.

Let me write it out. Then I won't forget it. Karen wrote out her objections.


In a technical context about memory, it is simply mentioned as write. It makes sense because writing always comes from your memory (either short or long memory). (unless you write what you read without looking at what you are writing which would be very unusual). Reciting is like reading something from your memory and repeating it aloud. Writing cannot include that extra action and it already covers writing from memory, so that might be why there wasn't a need for a distinctive verb.

This principle of long-term memory may well be at work when you recite or write the ideas and facts that you read. As you recite or write you are holding each idea in mind for the four or five seconds that are needed for the temporary memory to be converted into a permanent one. In other words, the few minutes that it takes for you to review and think about what you are trying to learn is the minimum length of time that neuroscientists believe is necessary to allow thought to go into a lasting, more easily retrievable memory.


  • 1
    I don't see how this is any more appropriate than "write," "write down," "rewrite," "transcribe," or "record."
    – Rusty Tuba
    Dec 31, 2014 at 5:55
  • @RustyTuba: I think "write out" emphasizes the idea.
    – ermanen
    Dec 31, 2014 at 5:57
  • so... based on your edited answer, the word for "writing from memory" is "write" ?
    – Rusty Tuba
    Dec 31, 2014 at 6:00
  • @RustyTuba: I believe so, but it makes sense in the context. So there isn't a specific word like "recite".
    – ermanen
    Dec 31, 2014 at 6:03

Record; in the original sense.


Perhaps "memorialize", which means to do or create something (in this sense, a written document) that preserves memory.

Example: "She memorialized the conversation in her diary."

  • Almost there. Please add some definition and suggest an example sentence, if you can, to help us understand better.
    – NVZ
    May 1, 2016 at 21:10

Try: His written remembrances were impeccable as he wrote every detail.

Try: His written recollection missed no detail.

Try: His written reminiscence lacked omission.

Try a coined word (coined by me): He mindscribed every detail as if he were living that day again.

Try a coined word (coined by me): He possessed a mnemographic memory, writing every detail as if it were happening before our eyes.


If the need for a single word outweighs the need for that word to have some currency then prick could possibly fit the bill. Prick is more specifically to do with writing down music but has been used just to mean 'to record in writing'.

OED says

13 a. trans. To write or set down (music) by means of ‘pricks’ or notes (arch.); also, to write music in (a book) (obs.). Also absol. or intr.

1765 WESLEY Wks. (1872) XIV. 330 They [tunes] are pricked true, exactly as I desire all our congregations may sing them.

The Wesley citation suggests that 'from memory' songs are not as accurately sung as 'prick-songs' are, which to me suggests that it is words as well as notes that are 'pricked'.

The OED also mentions the usage

†14. To write down; to note or jot down; to record in writing. Obs.
c 1400 Destr. Troy 418 Als put is in poisé and prikkit be Ouyd.

You could save prick from obsolescence by resurrecting the usage from Collone's Destruction Of Troy. A slightly longer quote, showing that the use of 'pricked' was not for song, but for fables and stories.

All thies Japes ho enioynit as Gentils beleued,All thies maistres & mo she made in hir tyme,Als put is in poisé and prikkit be Ouyd,Þat feynit in his fablis & other fele stories

For prick-song the OED has

1. orig. pricked song: Music sung from notes written or ‘pricked’, as distinguished from that sung from memory or by ear; written vocal music.
2. esp. A written descant or accompanying melody to a ‘plain-song’ or simple theme; hence, gen. descant or ‘counterpoint’ accompanying a simple melody (also fig.).

I'm not sure that it specifically means 'written from memory' but I'd say it's pretty close; prick-song specifically means 'from a written source, not from memory' so the initial pricking must've come from memory.

Some more Pepys quotes (from his Diary).

...so I only invited her to come and dine with me on Sunday next, and so away home, and for saving my eyes at my chamber all the evening pricking down some things, and trying some conclusions upon my viall, in order to the inventing a better theory of musique than hath yet been abroad; and I think verily I shall do it.
...he did play beyond anything of that kind that ever I heard in my life; and with great pains he must have obtained it, but with pains that the instrument do not deserve at all; for, at the best, it is mighty barbarous musick. So home and there to my chamber, to prick out my song, “It is Decreed,” intending to have it ready to give Mr. Harris on Thursday, when we meet, for him to sing, believing that he will do it more right than a woman that sings better, unless it were Knepp, which I cannot have opportunity to teach it to.
...and then to Hide Parke, where many coaches, but the dust so great, that it was troublesome, and so by night home, where to my chamber and finished my pricking out of my song for Mr. Harris (“It is decreed”), and ...

  • It seems clear from the background information you have gathered here that in this context, the noun prick principally refers to the notes inscribed as dots on a musical score, and pricking to the process of marking them on the page. The fact that the words accompanying songs thus recorded may also have been set down on paper seems incidental to the primary connotation of dots or points (in this case, ones marked on a musical manuscript). Unfortunately, I don't see any evidence supporting your statement that the word prick "has been used just to mean 'to record in writing' ".
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 31, 2014 at 9:23
  • @ErikKowal OED 14 - To write down; to note or jot down; to record in writing. I think I made it clear it was mostly used for music, but that other usage is explicit enough for me. Obsolete or not.
    – Frank
    Dec 31, 2014 at 9:25

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