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Old English sceort, scort "short, not long, not tall; brief," probably from Proto-Germanic *skurta- (cf. Old Norse skorta "to be short of," skort "shortness;" Old High German scurz "short"), from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut," with notion of "something cut off" (cf. Sanskrit krdhuh "shortened, maimed, small;" Latin curtus "short," cordus "late-born," originally "stunted in growth;" Old Church Slavonic kratuku, Russian korotkij "short;" Lithuanian skurstu "to be stunted," skardus "steep;" Old Irish cert "small," Middle Irish corr "stunted, dwarfish").
Meaning "having an insufficient quantity" is from 1690s. Meaning "rude" is attested from late 14c. Meaning "easily provoked" is from 1590s; perhaps the notion is of being "not long in tolerating." Short fuse in figurative sense of "quick temper" first attested 1968. To fall short is from archery. Short run "relatively brief period of time" is from 1879. Short story first recorded 1877. To make short work of "dispose of quickly" is first attested 1570s. Phrase short and sweet is from 1530s. To be short by the knees (1733) was to be kneeling; to be short by the head (1540s) was to be beheaded.
1580s, the short "the result, the total," from short (adj.). Meaning "electrical short circuit" first recorded 1906 (see short circuit). Meaning "contraction of a name or phrase" is from 1873 (as in for short). Slang meaning "car" is attested from 1897; originally "street car," so called because street cars (or the rides taken in them) were "shorter" than railroad cars.
Old English sceortian "to grow short, become short; run short, fail," from the source of short (adj.). Transitive meaning "make short" is from late 12c. Meaning "to short-circuit" is by 1904. Related: Shorted; shorting.
[automobile sense apparently fr hot short, ''a stolen car,'' short having come to mean ''streetcar'' and then ''car''; streetcar because its runs were short compared with those of a train]