adjective, briefer, briefest.
lasting or taking a short time; of short duration: a brief walk; a brief stay in the country.
using few words; concise; succinct: a brief report on weather conditions.
abrupt or curt.
scanty: a brief bathing suit.
a short and concise statement or written item.
an outline, the form of which is determined by set rules, of all the possible arguments and information on one side of a controversy: a debater's brief.
a writ summoning one to answer to any action.
a memorandum of points of fact or of law for use in conducting a case.
a written argument submitted to a court.
(in England) the material relevant to a case, delivered by a solicitor to the barrister who tries the case.
an outline, summary, or synopsis, as of a book.
briefs, (used with a plural verb) close-fitting, legless underpants with an elastic waistband.
Roman Catholic Church. a papal letter less formal than a bull, sealed with the pope's signet ring or stamped with the device borne on this ring.
British Theater. a free ticket; pass.
Obsolete. a letter.
verb (used with object)
to make an abstract or summary of.
to instruct by a brief or briefing: They brief all the agents before assigning them.
Law. to retain as advocate in a suit.
hold a brief for, to support or defend by argument; endorse.
in brief, in a few words; in short: The supervisor outlined in brief the duties of the new assistant.

1250–1300; Middle English bref < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin brevis short; see breve

briefer, noun
briefness, noun
unbrief, adjective
unbriefly, adverb
unbriefness, noun
unbriefed, adjective

1. short-lived, fleeting, transitory, ephemeral, transient. See short. 2. terse, compact, pithy, condensed. 5. outline, précis, epitome, abstract. See summary. 14. summarize, outline. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
brief (briːf)
1.  short in duration: a brief holiday
2.  short in length or extent; scanty: a brief bikini
3.  abrupt in manner; brusque: the professor was brief with me this morning
4.  terse or concise; containing few words: he made a brief statement
5.  a condensed or short statement or written synopsis; abstract
6.  law a document containing all the facts and points of law of a case by which a solicitor instructs a barrister to represent a client
7.  RC Church a letter issuing from the Roman court written in modern characters, as contrasted with a papal bull; papal brief
8.  short for briefing
9.  a paper outlining the arguments and information on one side of a debate
10.  slang (Brit) a lawyer, esp a barrister
11.  hold a brief for to argue for; champion
12.  in brief in short; to sum up
vb (foll by against)
13.  to prepare or instruct by giving a summary of relevant facts
14.  to make a summary or synopsis of
15.  English law
 a.  to instruct (a barrister) by brief
 b.  to retain (a barrister) as counsel
16.  See also briefs to supply potentially damaging or negative information regarding somone, as to the media, a politician, etc
[C14: from Old French bref, from Latin brevis; related to Greek brakhus]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 13c., from L. brevis (adj.) "short, low, little, shallow," from PIE *mregh-wi-, from base *mregh-u- "short" (cf. Gk. brakhys "short," O.C.S. bruzeja "shallow places, shoals," Goth. gamaurgjan "to shorten").

from L. breve (gen. brevis), noun derivative of L. adj. brevis (see brief (adj.)) which came to mean "letter, summary" (specifically a letter of the pope, less ample and solemn than a bull), and came to mean "letter of authority," which yielded the modern, legal sense of "summary
of the facts of a case" (1630s). The verb meaning "to give instructions or information to" (1866) was originally "to instruct by a brief" (1862); hence briefing, first attested 1910 but popularized by WWII pre-flight conferences.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see hold no brief for; in brief.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in law, a document often in the form of a summary or abstract. The term is used primarily in common-law countries, and its exact meaning varies across jurisdictions.

Learn more about brief with a free trial on

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
My students read several short supplemental readings over the course of the
  semester and write a brief response to them.
Don't fertilize them ― doing so shortens their already brief lifespan.
After a brief tour of the city, enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.
Although some of the brief personal stories are poignant, the underlying
  precepts are not new.
Idioms & Phrases
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