View synonyms for brief


[ breef ]


, brief·er, brief·est.
  1. lasting or taking a short time; of short duration:

    a brief walk; a brief stay in the country.

    Synonyms: transient, ephemeral, transitory, fleeting, short-lived

  2. using few words; concise; succinct:

    a brief report on weather conditions.

    Synonyms: condensed, pithy, compact, terse

  3. abrupt or curt.
  4. scanty:

    a brief bathing suit.


  1. a short and concise statement or written item.

    Synonyms: abstract, epitome, précis, outline

  2. an outline, the form of which is determined by set rules, of all the possible arguments and information on one side of a controversy:

    a debater's brief.

  3. Law.
    1. a writ summoning one to answer to any action.
    2. a memorandum of points of fact or of law for use in conducting a case.
    3. a written argument submitted to a court.
    4. (in England) the material relevant to a case, delivered by a solicitor to the barrister who tries the case.
  4. an outline, summary, or synopsis, as of a book.
  5. briefs, (used with a plural verb) close-fitting, legless underpants with an elastic waistband.
  6. Roman Catholic Church. a papal letter less formal than a bull, sealed with the pope's signet ring or stamped with the device borne on this ring.
  7. British Theater. a free ticket; pass.
  8. Obsolete. a letter.

verb (used with object)

  1. to make an abstract or summary of.

    Synonyms: outline, summarize

  2. to instruct by a brief or briefing:

    They brief all the agents before assigning them.

  3. Law. to retain as advocate in a suit.


/ briːf /


  1. short in duration

    a brief holiday

  2. short in length or extent; scanty

    a brief bikini

  3. abrupt in manner; brusque

    the professor was brief with me this morning

  4. terse or concise; containing few words

    he made a brief statement


  1. a condensed or short statement or written synopsis; abstract
  2. law a document containing all the facts and points of law of a case by which a solicitor instructs a barrister to represent a client
  3. RC Church a letter issuing from the Roman court written in modern characters, as contrasted with a papal bull; papal brief
  4. short for briefing
  5. a paper outlining the arguments and information on one side of a debate
  6. slang.
    a lawyer, esp a barrister
  7. hold a brief for
    to argue for; champion
  8. in brief
    in short; to sum up


  1. to prepare or instruct by giving a summary of relevant facts
  2. to make a summary or synopsis of
  3. English law
    1. to instruct (a barrister) by brief
    2. to retain (a barrister) as counsel
  4. intrfoll byagainst to supply potentially damaging or negative information regarding somone, as to the media, a politician, etc See also briefs

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Derived Forms

  • ˈbriefness, noun
  • ˈbriefly, adverb

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Other Words From

  • briefer noun
  • briefness noun
  • un·brief adjective
  • un·briefly adverb
  • un·briefness noun
  • un·briefed adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of brief1

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English bref, from Anglo-French, Old French, from Latin brevis “short”; breve

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Word History and Origins

Origin of brief1

C14: from Old French bref , from Latin brevis ; related to Greek brakhus

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. hold a brief for, to support or defend by argument; endorse.
  2. in brief, in a few words; in short:

    The supervisor outlined in brief the duties of the new assistant.

More idioms and phrases containing brief

see hold no brief for ; in brief .

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Synonym Study

See short. See summary.

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Example Sentences

As they moved down the street, Harris waved, held her hand to her heart, and bumped elbows and had brief conversations with several onlookers.

Amazon, meanwhile, set their preorders live late Wednesday around midnight ET, only for consoles to sell out within a similarly brief timeframe.

For over a decade, astronomers have puzzled over the origins of fast radio bursts, brief blasts of radio waves that come mostly from distant galaxies.

After brief introductions, he told me to follow him, but he went the wrong way.

I’m most in love with the liner, which feels like a comfy pair of boxer-briefs even when they get wet.

In his brief appearance today, Scalise never mentioned Duke.

Before we get to all that, permit me a brief reflection on this matter of Steve Scalise.

Hawking, of course, came to global fame with his book A Brief History of Time.

Even when financial facilitators are arrested, incarceration is brief.

Even the brief time spent chewing exposes foods to enzymes that begin to break it down.

Vicars' wives had come and gone, but all had submitted, some after a brief struggle, to old Mrs. Wurzel's sway.

As Perker said this, he looked towards the door, with an evident desire to render the leave-taking as brief as possible.

And I finished all with a brief historical account of affairs and events in England for about a hundred years past.

The events which succeeded this fortunate capture are too well known to require more than a very brief recapitulation.

In brief, by the close of the year, the phenomenal conditions growing directly out of the European war had been met and overcome.


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More About Brief

What does brief mean?

Brief is most commonly used as an adjective to mean lasting a short amount of time.

As an adjective, it can also mean concise or said in a few words, as in Keep your introduction brief and get right to the point. 

Less commonly, brief can describe an action or interaction as abrupt or too short, often in a rude way, as in Please don’t be so brief with customers. 

The adverb form of the adjective brief is briefly, which most commonly means for a short amount of time or concisely.

As a noun, the word brief commonly means a short written item. In a legal context, a brief is a short legal document, such as a written argument submitted to a court or some other short statement of facts for use in a legal case.

Brief can also be used as a verb meaning to provide a short explanation or summary of something to someone, as in Each cabinet member will brief the president on the most important issues. The noun briefing refers to a meeting at which someone is briefed in this way.

Example: The meeting was very brief—it lasted only a few minutes.

Where does brief come from?

The first records of the word brief come from the 1200s. It ultimately comes from the Latin brevis, meaning “short.”

Whether it’s used as an adjective, a noun, or a verb, the word brief always involves things that are short in length or duration. When you tell someone to “keep it brief,” you’re asking them to not take too long—often because there’s not a lot of time. But there’s no set amount of time that makes something brief—it just means appropriately short for the situation. When someone says “I’ll be brief” before speaking, they may have a different idea of what brief means than you do.

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What are some other forms related to brief?

  • briefly (adverb)
  • briefness (noun)
  • briefer (noun)

What are some synonyms for brief?

What are some words that share a root or word element with brief

What are some words that often get used in discussing brief?

How is brief used in real life?

Brief is a very common word and one of the briefest ways to say, “lasting a short amount of time.”



Try using brief!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of brief?

A. short
B. concise
C. succinct
D. lengthy

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.