• Brief


    • IPA: /bɹiːf/
    • Rhymes: -iːf


    From Old French brief, from Latin brevis ("short"). Compare French bref.

    Full definition of brief



    1. Of short duration; happening quickly. from 15th c.
      Her reign was brief but spectacular.
      • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)How brief the life of man.
      • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, The Mirror and the Lamp Chapter 10, It was a joy to snatch some brief respite, and find himself in the rectory drawing–room. Listening here was as pleasant as talking; just to watch was pleasant. The young priests who lived here wore cassocks and birettas; their faces were fine and mild, yet really strong, like the rector's face; and in their intercourse with him and his wife they seemed to be brothers.
      • 2012, November 7, Matt Bai, Winning a Second Term, Obama Will Confront Familiar Headwinds, That brief moment after the election four years ago, when many Americans thought Mr. Obama’s election would presage a new, less fractious political era, now seems very much a thing of the past.
    2. Concise; taking few words. from 15th c.
      His speech of acceptance was brief but moving.
      • Ben Johnson (1572-1637)The brief style is that which expresseth much in little.
      • 1922, Ben Travers, A Cuckoo in the Nest Chapter 1, She was like a Beardsley Salome, he had said. And indeed she had the narrow eyes and the high cheekbone of that creature, and as nearly the sinuosity as is compatible with human symmetry. His wooing had been brief but incisive.
    3. Occupying a small distance, area or spatial extent; short. from 17th c.
      Her skirt was extremely brief but doubtless cool.
      • 1983, Robert Drewe, The Bodysurfers, Penguin 2009, p. 17:On the beach he always wore a straw hat with a red band and a brief pair of leopard print trunks.
    4. (obsolete) Rife; common; prevalent.


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    (plural briefs)
    1. (legal) A writ summoning one to answer to any action.
    2. (legal) An answer to any action.
      • 1996 The Japanese Rule of Civil Procedure, Article 79 (1):A written answer or any other brief shall be submitted to the court while allowing a period necessary for the opponent to make preparations with regard to the matters stated therein.
    3. (legal) A memorandum of points of fact or of law for use in conducting a case.
    4. (legal) An attorney's legal argument in written form for submission to a court.
    5. (English law) The material relevant to a case, delivered by a solicitor to the barrister who tries the case.
    6. (informal) A short news story or report.
      • We got a news brief.
      • ShakespeareBear this sealed brief,
        With winged haste, to the lord marshal.
    7. (obsolete) A summary, précis or epitome; an abridgement or abstract.
      • 1589 Thomas Nashe, The Anatomie of Absurditie 5:A survey of their follie, a briefe of their barbarisme.
      • OverburyEach woman is a brief of womankind.
    8. (UK, historical) A letter patent, from proper authority, authorizing a collection or charitable contribution of money in churches, for any public or private purpose.

    Derived terms


    1. (transitive) To summarize a recent development to some person with decision-making power.The U.S. president was briefed on the military coup and its implications on African stability.
    2. (transitive, legal) To write a legal argument and submit it to a court.

    Derived terms



    1. (obsolete, poetic) Briefly.
      • MiltonAdam, faltering long, thus answered brief.
    2. (obsolete, poetic) Soon; quickly.


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