[ suhm-uh-ree ]
/ ˈsʌm ə ri /

noun, plural sum·ma·ries.

a comprehensive and usually brief abstract, recapitulation, or compendium of previously stated facts or statements.


brief and comprehensive; concise.
direct and prompt; unceremoniously fast: to treat someone with summary dispatch.
(of legal proceedings, jurisdiction, etc.) conducted without, or exempt from, the various steps and delays of a formal trial.



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Origin of summary

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin summārium, equivalent to summ(a) sum + -ārium -ary

synonym study for summary

1. Summary, brief, digest, synopsis are terms for a short version of a longer work. A summary is a brief statement or restatement of main points, especially as a conclusion to a work: a summary of a chapter. A brief is a detailed outline, by heads and subheads, of a discourse (usually legal) to be completed: a brief for an argument. A digest is an abridgement of an article, book, etc., or an organized arrangement of material under heads and titles: a digest of a popular novel; a digest of Roman law. A synopsis is usually a compressed statement of the plot of a novel, play, etc.: a synopsis of Hamlet.

historical usage of summary

The English noun summary comes straight from the Latin neuter noun summārium “abridgment, abstract, epitome,” an extremely rare word used only once in the surviving Latin literature by the Roman author, tragedian, statesman, and Stoic philosopher Seneca (the Younger) in one of his Moral Letters to Lucilius (39), in which he complains “…what is now commonly called a ‘breviary’ [ breviārium ] was called, in the good old days, when we used to speak Latin, a ‘summary’ [ summārium ]." (Complaints about the terrible state of the language are nothing new.)
Summārium is a compound of adjective summus “highest, topmost, top” and the noun suffix -ārium. ( Summa, the feminine of summus used as a noun, in mathematics and accounting means “sum, total”: The Romans added their numbers from the bottom up and wrote the total in summā “on the top.”)
Medieval Latin has the adjective summārius “abbreviated, summary,” which was borrowed into Middle English in the 15th century.The adjectival meaning “relating to legal proceedings conducted without certain required formalities” is recorded about 1765, though the corresponding meaning of the adverb summarily appears much earlier.


sum·mar·i·ness [suh-mair-i-nis] /səˈmɛər ɪ nɪs/, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for summary

British Dictionary definitions for summary

/ (ˈsʌmərɪ) /

noun plural -maries

a brief account giving the main points of something

adjective (usually prenominal)

performed arbitrarily and quickly, without formalitya summary execution
(of legal proceedings) short and free from the complexities and delays of a full trial
summary jurisdiction the right a court has to adjudicate immediately upon some matter arising during its proceedings
giving the gist or essence

Derived forms of summary

summarily, adverbsummariness, noun

Word Origin for summary

C15: from Latin summārium, from summa sum 1
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