adjective, ters·er, ters·est.

neatly or effectively concise; brief and pithy, as language.
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

Synonym study

1, 2. See concise.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for terseness

Historical Examples of terseness

  • "Been and gone," was the secretary's answer, with the terseness characteristic of her.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Rad scowled and said nothing, and the rest of his answers were terseness itself.

  • Of course, the matter of terseness can be run into the ground.

  • His terseness was calculated: that, he thought, would best control her wildness.


    Joseph Hergesheimer

  • There is a terseness in the following which seems to be inimitable.

    Law and Laughter

    George Alexander Morton

British Dictionary definitions for terseness



neatly brief and concise
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 terseness



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