cut short, to end abruptly; terminate: Her nap was cut short by a loud noise from outside.
    fall/come short,
    1. to fail to reach a particular standard.
    2. to prove insufficient; be lacking: Her funds fell short, and she had to wire home for help.
    for short, by way of abbreviation: Her name is Patricia, and she's called Pat for short.
    in short,
    1. in summary.
    2. in few words; in brief: In short, this has been rather a disappointing day.
    make short work of. work(def 53).
    run short, to be in insufficient supply: My patience is running short.
    sell short,
    1. Stock sell stocks or the like without having them in one's actual possession at the time of the sale.
    2. to disparage or underestimate: Don't sell Tom short; he's really an excellent engineer.
    short and sweet,
    1. pleasantly brief.
    2. pertinent: We're in a hurry, so make it short and sweet.
    short for, being a shorter form of; abbreviated to: “Phone” is short for “telephone.”
    short of,
    1. less than; inferior to.
    2. inadequately supplied with (money, food, etc.).
    3. without going to the length of; failing of; excluding: Short of murder, there is nothing he wouldn't have tried to get what he wanted.

Origin of short

before 900; Middle English schort (adj.), Old English sceort; cognate with Old High German scurz short, Old Norse skortr shortness, scarcity
Related formsshort·ness, nouno·ver·short, adjectiveo·ver·short·ness, nounun·short, adjective

Synonyms for short

4. Short, brief are opposed to long, and indicate slight extent or duration. Short may imply duration but is also applied to physical distance and certain purely spatial relations: a short journey. Brief refers especially to duration of time: brief intervals. 5. terse, succinct, laconic, condensed. 6. curt, sharp, testy. 7. poor, deficient, inadequate, wanting, lacking. 12. crumbly. 14. brachycephalic.

Antonyms for short

3, 4. long. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shortness

Contemporary Examples of shortness

Historical Examples of shortness

  • I am merely getting anxious about the shortness of the time.

  • He speedily understood the shortness and secrecy of her visit.

    A Singer from the Sea

    Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

  • This is a common mistake; and too much water deprives the paste of its shortness.

    The Skilful Cook

    Mary Harrison

  • But I must be off, lass; for I've the horses to get ready, forby the shortness of the time.

  • "Crossed the fields for shortness, and caught in a bramble-bush," he said, muttering.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for shortness



of little length; not long
of little height; not tall
of limited duration
not meeting a requirement; deficientthe number of places laid at the table was short by four
(postpositive; often foll by of or on) lacking (in) or needful (of)I'm always short of money
concise; succinct
lacking in the power of retentivenessa short memory
abrupt to the point of rudenessthe salesgirl was very short with him
  1. not possessing the securities or commodities that have been sold under contract and therefore obliged to make a purchase before the delivery date
  2. of or relating to such sales, which depend on falling prices for profit
  1. denoting a vowel of relatively brief temporal duration
  2. classified as short, as distinguished from other vowels. Thus in English (ɪ) in bin, though of longer duration than () in beat, is nevertheless regarded as a short vowel
  3. (in popular usage) denoting the qualities of the five English vowels represented orthographically in the words pat, pet, pit, pot, put, and putt
  1. denoting a vowel that is phonetically short or a syllable containing such a vowel. In classical verse short vowels are followed by one consonant only or sometimes one consonant plus a following l or r
  2. (of a vowel or syllable in verse that is not quantitative) not carrying emphasis or accent; unstressed
(of pastry) crumbly in textureSee also shortcrust pastry
(of a drink of spirits) undiluted; neat
(of betting odds) almost even
have someone by the short and curlies informal to have (someone) completely in one's power
in short supply scarce
short and sweet unexpectedly brief
short for an abbreviation for


abruptlyto stop short
briefly or concisely
rudely or curtly
finance without possessing the securities or commodities at the time of their contractual saleto sell short
caught short or taken short having a sudden need to urinate or defecate
fall short
  1. to prove inadequate
  2. (often foll by of)to fail to reach or measure up to (a standard)
go short not to have a sufficient amount, etc
short of exceptnothing short of a miracle can save him now


anything that is short
a drink of spirits as opposed to a long drink such as beer
phonetics prosody a short vowel or syllable
  1. a short contract or sale
  2. a short seller
a short film, usually of a factual nature
for short informal as an abbreviationhe is called Jim for short
in short
  1. as a summary
  2. in a few words


See also shorts
Derived Formsshortness, noun

Word Origin for short

Old English scort; related to Old Norse skortr a lack, skera to cut, Old High German scurz short
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 shortness

Old English scortnes; see short (adj.) + -ness. Shortness of breath is from 1570s.



Old English sceort, scort "short, not long, not tall; brief," probably from Proto-Germanic *skurta- (cf. Old Norse skorta "to be short of," skort "shortness;" Old High German scurz "short"), from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut," with notion of "something cut off" (cf. Sanskrit krdhuh "shortened, maimed, small;" Latin curtus "short," cordus "late-born," originally "stunted in growth;" Old Church Slavonic kratuku, Russian korotkij "short;" Lithuanian skurstu "to be stunted," skardus "steep;" Old Irish cert "small," Middle Irish corr "stunted, dwarfish").

Meaning "having an insufficient quantity" is from 1690s. Meaning "rude" is attested from late 14c. Meaning "easily provoked" is from 1590s; perhaps the notion is of being "not long in tolerating." Short fuse in figurative sense of "quick temper" first attested 1968. To fall short is from archery. Short run "relatively brief period of time" is from 1879. Short story first recorded 1877. To make short work of "dispose of quickly" is first attested 1570s. Phrase short and sweet is from 1530s. To be short by the knees (1733) was to be kneeling; to be short by the head (1540s) was to be beheaded.



1580s, the short "the result, the total," from short (adj.). Meaning "electrical short circuit" first recorded 1906 (see short circuit). Meaning "contraction of a name or phrase" is from 1873 (as in for short). Slang meaning "car" is attested from 1897; originally "street car," so called because street cars (or the rides taken in them) were "shorter" than railroad cars.



Old English sceortian "to grow short, become short; run short, fail," from the source of short (adj.). Transitive meaning "make short" is from late 12c. Meaning "to short-circuit" is by 1904. Related: Shorted; shorting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with shortness


In addition to the idioms beginning with short

  • short and sweet
  • short end of the stick, the
  • short for
  • short haul
  • short notice, on
  • short of
  • short order
  • short run
  • short shrift, give

also see:

  • by the short hairs
  • caught short
  • cut short
  • fall short
  • for short
  • in brief (short)
  • in short order
  • in short supply
  • in the long (short) run
  • life is too short
  • long and short of it
  • long (short) haul
  • make a long story short
  • make short work of
  • nothing short of
  • run short
  • sell short
  • stop short
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.