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Old English scrift "confession to priest, followed by penance and absolution," verbal noun from scrifan "to impose penance," from an early Germanic borrowing of Latin scribere "to write" (see script (n.)) that produced nouns for "penance, confession" in Old English and Scandinavian (cf. Old Norse skrjpt "penance, confession"), but elsewhere in Germanic is used in senses "writing, scripture, alphabet letter;" see shrive. Short shrift originally was the brief time for a condemned criminal to confess before execution (1590s); figurative extension to "little or no consideration" is first attested 1814.