We all know that a scroll is a roll of parchment used in ancient times. A scroll can be rolled up or down, and that must have been the metaphor the creator of the computer-term "scroll" had in mind.

But in English, is it acceptable to say you can scroll (verb) a scroll (noun) up and down? As far as I know it should be "roll up/down" in this context, so how is it that we use "scroll" as a verb in computer terminology?

When was the word "scroll" first used as a verb, and how is it that we don't rather use the appropriate scroll-metaphor (the object), which would be to roll the page up and down?

  • In 1981 for the scrolling computer window sense: See etymonline, 1600 for scroll as a verb in general.
    – Jim
    Aug 13, 2012 at 8:05

1 Answer 1


The OED’s first recorded use of scroll as a verb is in 1606 when it meant ‘to write down in a scroll’. The first use in the sense ‘To roll or curl up’ is in 1868. The first use in a computing context is in 1971. By 1977 it was being used in the sense ‘to move displayed material upwards by scrolling’ and by 1979 ‘to move through text on a screen by scrolling’.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer! So is it valid in modern English to "scroll" (verb) up a scroll? Or is it still roll? And if it's not too much trouble, could you please provide citations for the dates, or direct to somewhere I can find them?
    – Herman
    Aug 13, 2012 at 8:34
  • @Herman: For this kind of detail, you really need to subscribe to the OED: oed.com. Aug 13, 2012 at 9:11
  • 1
    Scrolling panoramas became popular in the US in the 1850s (and in Asia much, much earlier). See, e.g. this article. I wonder whether the verb scroll was used to describe them at that time?
    – bib
    Aug 13, 2012 at 13:29

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