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adjective, ters·er, ters·est.
  1. neatly or effectively concise; brief and pithy, as language.
  2. abruptly concise; curt; brusque.

Origin of terse

1595–1605; < Latin tersus, past participle of tergēre to rub off, wipe off, clean, polish
Related formsterse·ly, adverbterse·ness, nounun·terse, adjectiveun·terse·ly, adverbun·terse·ness, noun

Synonyms for terse

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Synonym study

1, 2. See concise.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for terse


  1. neatly brief and concise
  2. curt; abrupt
Derived Formstersely, adverbterseness, noun

Word Origin for terse

C17: from Latin tersus precise, from tergēre to polish
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 terse

1590s (implied in tersely), "clean-cut, burnished, neat," from French ters "clean," from Latin tersus "wiped off, clean, neat," from past participle of tergere "to rub, polish, wipe." Sense of "concise or pithy in style or language" is from 1777, which led to a general sense of "neatly concise." The pejorative meaning "brusque" is a fairly recent development. Related: Terseness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper