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[shrift] /ʃrɪft/
noun, Archaic.
the imposition of penance by a priest on a penitent after confession.
absolution or remission of sins granted after confession and penance.
confession to a priest.
Origin of shrift
before 900; Middle English; Old English scrift penance; cognate with German, Dutch schrift writing; see shrive, -th1
Can be confused
shift, shrift. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for shrift
Historical Examples
  • Let them but dream that he knew them, and Vanheimert gave himself as short a shrift as he would have granted in their place.

    Stingaree E. W. (Ernest William) Hornung
  • He lost his place, his money, and at last came to beg for shrift and punishment.

    Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln Charles L. Marson
  • As he makes this shrift the storm begins to abate; to the amazement of the Cossacks, the fleet is saved, and not one man drowned.

  • Nor dare you go near him on your own account, or short would be your shrift.

    A King's Comrade Charles Whistler
  • His shrift of the morning, hurried and formal as it had been, had softened him.

  • I am in your power, and were I in Miss Lindsay's power alone, my shrift would be short.

    An Unsocial Socialist George Bernard Shaw
  • It was lucky for the deserter that we found him before they did, for his shrift would have been short.

    War in the Garden of Eden Kermit Roosevelt
  • At least they would never have insulted her, and Ishmael's shrift would have been short.

    The Ghost Kings H. Rider Haggard
  • In the nature of things he felt that his own shrift must necessarily be short.

    The Real Man Francis Lynde
  • I pray you that you will buy one, for war is bloody work, and the end is sudden with little time for thought or shrift.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
British Dictionary definitions for shrift


(archaic) the act or an instance of shriving or being shriven See also short shrift
Word Origin
Old English scrift, from Latin scriptumscript
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for shrift

Old English scrift "confession to priest, followed by penance and absolution," verbal noun from scrifan "to impose penance," from an early Germanic borrowing of Latin scribere "to write" (see script (n.)) that produced nouns for "penance, confession" in Old English and Scandinavian (cf. Old Norse skrjpt "penance, confession"), but elsewhere in Germanic is used in senses "writing, scripture, alphabet letter;" see shrive. Short shrift originally was the brief time for a condemned criminal to confess before execution (1590s); figurative extension to "little or no consideration" is first attested 1814.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with shrift


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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