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late 14c., "a putting in writing," from Middle French conscription, from Latin conscriptionem (nominative conscriptio) "a drawing up of a list, enrollment, a levying of soldiers," from conscribere "to enroll," from com- "with" (see com-) + scribere "to write" (see script (n.)).
Meaning "enlistment of soldiers" is from 1520s; the sense "compulsory enlistment for military service" (1800) is traceable to the French Republic act of Sept. 5, 1798. Technically, a conscription is the enrollment of a fixed number by lot, with options of providing a substitute.