adjective, brief·er, brief·est.
- a writ summoning one to answer to any action.
- a memorandum of points of fact or of law for use in conducting a case.
- a written argument submitted to a court.
- (in England) the material relevant to a case, delivered by a solicitor to the barrister who tries the case.
verb (used with object)
Origin of brief
Synonyms for brief
- to instruct (a barrister) by brief
- to retain (a barrister) as counsel
Word Origin for brief
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).
Also, in short; in a word. Concisely, in few words, to sum up. All three phrases usually precede or follow a summary statement, as in In brief, we didn't get much out of his speech, or There was no agenda; in short, they could discuss whatever they wanted to, or The sun was shining, the sky was clear—in a word, it was a beautiful day. The first expression dates from the early 1400s; in short dates from the 1300s but the present usage dates from the 1700s; the hyperbolic in a word (since there is nearly always more than one word) dates from the late 1500s.
see hold no brief for; in brief.