adjective, brief·er, brief·est.


verb (used with object)


    hold a brief for, to support or defend by argument; endorse.
    in brief, in a few words; in short: The supervisor outlined in brief the duties of the new assistant.

Origin of brief

1250–1300; Middle English bref < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin brevis short; see breve
Related formsbrief·er, nounbrief·ness, nounun·brief, adjectiveun·brief·ly, adverbun·brief·ness, nounun·briefed, adjective

Synonyms for brief

1. short-lived, fleeting, transitory, ephemeral, transient. See short. 2. terse, compact, pithy, condensed. 5. outline, précis, epitome, abstract. See summary. 14. summarize, outline. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for briefs

Contemporary Examples of briefs

Historical Examples of briefs

  • Briefs in all those cases were, to a great extent, prepared by Judge Willson.

  • It's better to work than sit still and wait for briefs which never corns.

    Young Mr. Barter's Repentance

    David Christie Murray

  • Quentyns had been called to the Bar, and was already beginning to receive "briefs."

    A Young Mutineer

    Mrs. L. T. Meade

  • When the briefs begin to come in, we'll see about something better.

  • If I trust to briefs, my existence will be but brief—we all must live.

    Olla Podrida

    Frederick Marryat (AKA Captain Marryat)

British Dictionary definitions for briefs


pl n

men's underpants or women's pants without legs



short in durationa brief holiday
short in length or extent; scantya brief bikini
abrupt in manner; brusquethe professor was brief with me this morning
terse or concise; containing few wordshe made a brief statement


a condensed or short statement or written synopsis; abstract
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
RC Church a letter issuing from the Roman court written in modern characters, as contrasted with a papal bull; papal brief
short for briefing
a paper outlining the arguments and information on one side of a debate
British slang a lawyer, esp a barrister
hold a brief for to argue for; champion
in brief in short; to sum up

verb (tr)

to prepare or instruct by giving a summary of relevant facts
to make a summary or synopsis of
English law
  1. to instruct (a barrister) by brief
  2. to retain (a barrister) as counsel
(intr foll by against) to supply potentially damaging or negative information regarding somone, as to the media, a politician, etcSee also briefs
Derived Formsbriefly, adverbbriefness, noun

Word Origin for brief

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

Word Origin and History for briefs

"short, tight underwear," 1934, from brief (adj.).



late 13c., from Latin brevis (adj.) "short, low, little, shallow," from PIE *mregh-wi-, from root *mregh-u- "short" (cf. Greek brakhys "short," Old Church Slavonic bruzeja "shallow places, shoals," Gothic gamaurgjan "to shorten").



from Latin breve (genitive brevis), noun derivative of adjective brevis (see brief (adj.)) which came to mean "letter, summary," specifically a letter of the pope (less ample and solemn than a bull), and thus came to mean "letter of authority," which yielded the modern, legal sense of "summary of the facts of a case" (1630s).



"to give instructions or information to," 1866; originally "to instruct by a brief" (1862), from brief (n.). Related: Briefed; briefing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with briefs


see hold no brief for; in brief.

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