Word Origin & History
"the black liquor with which men write" [Johnson], mid-13c., from O.Fr. enque "dark writing fluid," from L.L. encaustum, from Gk. enkauston "purple or red ink," used by the Roman emperors to sign documents, originally a neut. adj. form of enkaustos "burned in," from stem of enkaiein "to burn in," from
en- "in" + kaiein "to burn" (see caustic
). The word is from a Gk. method of applying colored wax and fixing it with heat. The verb meaning "to mark or stain in ink" is from 1560s. Inky "as black as ink" is attested from 1590s.