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[turs] /tɜrs/
adjective, terser, tersest.
neatly or effectively concise; brief and pithy, as language.
abruptly concise; curt; brusque.
Origin of terse
1595-1605; < Latin tersus, past participle of tergēre to rub off, wipe off, clean, polish
Related forms
tersely, adverb
terseness, noun
unterse, adjective
untersely, adverb
unterseness, noun
1. succinct, compact, neat, concentrated.
Synonym Study
1, 2. See concise. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for terseness
Historical Examples
  • There was a terseness and massiveness in his speech, curiously blended with subtilty and fervor.

  • Rad scowled and said nothing, and the rest of his answers were terseness itself.

    The Four Pools Mystery Jean Webster
  • The following table illustrates the perfect simplicity and terseness of the Esperanto verb.

    International Language Walter J. Clark
  • His terseness was calculated: that, he thought, would best control her wildness.

    Cytherea Joseph Hergesheimer
  • "Been and gone," was the secretary's answer, with the terseness characteristic of her.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • There is a terseness in the following which seems to be inimitable.

    Law and Laughter George Alexander Morton
  • He scarcely ever reached again this terseness and vivacity of style, and this entrain.

  • "Nada, John," he answered with a terseness which spoke volumes.

    A Volunteer with Pike Robert Ames Bennet
  • Simplicity and terseness of language are the characteristics of a well educated and highly cultivated person.

    Our Deportment John H. Young
  • In point of brevity and terseness of statement, it will be found to have no superior.

British Dictionary definitions for terseness


neatly brief and concise
curt; abrupt
Derived Forms
tersely, adverb
terseness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin tersus precise, from tergēre to polish
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 terseness



1590s (implied in tersely), "clean-cut, burnished, neat," from French ters "clean," from Latin tersus "wiped off, clean, neat," from past participle of tergere "to rub, polish, wipe." Sense of "concise or pithy in style or language" is from 1777, which led to a general sense of "neatly concise." The pejorative meaning "brusque" is a fairly recent development. Related: Terseness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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