Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Short in time, duration, length, or extent.
  • adj. Succinct; concise: a brief account of the incident.
  • adj. Curt; abrupt.
  • n. A short, succinct statement.
  • n. A condensation or an abstract of a larger document or series of documents.
  • n. Law A formal outline listing main contentions along with supporting evidence and documentation.
  • n. Law A document containing all the facts and points of law pertinent to a specific case, filed by an attorney before arguing the case in court.
  • n. Roman Catholic Church A papal letter that is not as formal as a bull.
  • n. A briefing.
  • n. Short, tight-fitting underpants.
  • transitive v. To summarize.
  • transitive v. To give instructions or preparatory information to: briefed the astronauts before the mission.
  • idiom in brief In short.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A writ summoning one to answer to any action.
  • n. An answer to any action.
  • n. A memorandum of points of fact or of law for use in conducting a case.
  • n. An attorney's legal argument in written form for submission to a court.
  • n. The material relevant to a case, delivered by a solicitor to the barrister who tries the case.
  • n. A short news story or report.
  • n. A summary, précis or epitome; an abridgement or abstract.
  • v. To knowledgeably summarize a recent development to some person with decision-making power.
  • v. To write a legal argument and submit it to a court.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Short in duration.
  • adj. Concise; terse; succinct.
  • adj. Rife; common; prevalent.
  • adv. Briefly.
  • adv. Soon; quickly.
  • n. A short concise writing or letter; a statement in few words.
  • n. An epitome.
  • n. An abridgment or concise statement of a client's case, made out for the instruction of counsel in a trial at law. This word is applied also to a statement of the heads or points of a law argument.
  • n. A writ; a breve. See Breve, n., 2.
  • n. A writ issuing from the chancery, directed to any judge ordinary, commanding and authorizing that judge to call a jury to inquire into the case, and upon their verdict to pronounce sentence.
  • n. A letter patent, from proper authority, authorizing a collection or charitable contribution of money in churches, for any public or private purpose.
  • n. a type of men's underpants without legs, fitting tightly and held by an elastic waistband; also called Jockey shorts.
  • transitive v. To make an abstract or abridgment of; to shorten.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Small with respect to length; short.
  • Abbreviated; cut or made short: as, the brief skirts of a ballet-dancer. [Humorous.]—
  • Short in duration; lasting a short time.
  • Short in expression; using few words; concise; succinct.
  • Clever; good: as, a brief discourse; “he gae us a very brief sermon,”
  • Keen.
  • Quick; ready; eager.
  • [Appar. a particular use of brief, short (hence quick, active, rife?); but some suppose a confusion with rife.] Common; rife; prevalent: as, I hear smallpox is very brief there.
  • In short.
  • Synonyms Short-lived, ephemeral, transitory, fleeting.
  • Compact, compendious.
  • n. A short or concise writing; a short statement or account; an epitome.
  • n. Specifically In law:
  • n. A writ summoning one to answer to any action; or any precept of the sovereign in writing issuing from any court and ordering something to be done. In Scots law, same as brieve (which see). In England, a letter patent from proper authority authorizing a public collection or charitable contribution of money for any public or private purpose; a license to make collections for repairing churches, making up for losses by fire, etc.: sometimes called a church brief or king's letter.
  • n. A writing in general; a letter.
  • n. In music, same as breve
  • n. The name given to certain official documents emanating from the pope, having a less solemn character than a bull.
  • n. [Also spelled breif, breef, ⟨ OF. bref, brief, a spell, talisman, ⟨ ML. breve, in pl. brevia, a writing containing magical characters carried as an amulet or talisman: a particular use of L. breve, a writing, as above.] A spell. Burns. [Scotch.] Synonyms
  • To abridge; shorten; make a brief of: as, to brief pleadings.
  • To furnish with a brief; instruct by a brief.
  • In brief; in short; briefly.
  • In or after a short time; soon; quickly.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a document stating the facts and points of law of a client's case
  • n. a condensed written summary or abstract
  • adj. (of clothing) very short
  • adj. of short duration or distance
  • v. give essential information to someone
  • adj. concise and succinct

Etymologies

Middle English bref, from Old French, from Latin brevis. N., Middle English bref, written communication, from Old French, from Medieval Latin breve, from Latin, neuter of brevis, short; see mregh-u- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French brief, from Latin brevis ("short"). Compare French bref. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The brief you will be making now will consist of an _introduction_, which states whatever facts and principles are necessary to an understanding of the brief, and the _brief_ itself, which consists of a series of propositions, each supporting your main contention, and each in turn supported by others, which again may each be supported by another series.

    The Making of Arguments

  • Secretary Gates used the term brief pause again in his testimony.

    CNN Transcript Apr 10, 2008

  • At any rate, without going into that specifically, in February he used the term brief pause.

    CNN Transcript Apr 8, 2008

  • That, in brief, is the purpose of this little volume, in which Dr. Raper summarizes the results of careful studies, made by himself and Professor Walter Chivers, of the eight-four lynchings of the past five years.

    The Mob Still Rides

  • What, in brief, is the operative relation between aesthetic pleasure and criticism?

    Response to Thomas Pfau

  • Such in brief is the outline of the Indian State as it has emerged through the fifties.

    India and the Sixties

  • Such in brief is my specification for a genus Americans, whose voice I do not hear.

    Wanted: American Radicals

  • This, in brief, is the system which has been laid out for us by child experts and educators generally, and the well-to‑do parents of America have accepted it without question as the normal and natural procedure in the upbringing of their children.

    Conscripted Children

  • This, in brief, is the sum and substance of Miss Stisted's indictment of Lady

    The Romance of Isabel, Lady Burton

  • Mr. Lowe: When what I call my brief career as a pop star ended, I found myself on sort of the scrap heap, even though I had done fairly well.

    The Rocker Who Aged Gracefully

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