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adjective, \ˈtərs\

Simple Definition of terse

  • : brief and direct in a way that may seem rude or unfriendly

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of terse


  1. 1 :  smoothly elegant :  polished

  2. 2 :  using few words :  devoid of superfluity <a terse summary>; also :  short, brusque <dismissed me with a terse “no”>

tersely adverb
terseness noun

Examples of terse in a sentence

  1. Everything about him is tidy, from his terse wit to the flecks of gray hair that fall in precise iterations around the edges of his scalp. —Devin Gordon, Newsweek, 29 July 2002

  2. … Johnston stays bolted to the wheelhouse floor, wrestling the helm and jotting down notes in the ship log. His entries are terse, bullet descriptions of the unending chaos outside. —Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm, 1997

  3. This vicious cycle was captured succinctly in Gandhi's terse warning that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. —David McCabe, Commonweal, 11 Apr. 1997

  4. She accepts the caller's terse expression of sympathy and duly expresses in return her appreciation for that unenviable bit of message-bearing. —John Barth, Harper's, January 1994

  5. She gave me a few terse instructions and promptly left the room.

  6. <could tell from his terse replies to my questions that he was in no mood to talk>

Origin of terse

Latin tersus clean, neat, from past participle of tergēre to wipe off

First Known Use: 1601

Synonym Discussion of terse

concise, terse, succinct, laconic, summary, pithy, compendious mean very brief in statement or expression. concise suggests the removal of all that is superfluous or elaborative <a concise description>. terse implies pointed conciseness <a terse reply>. succinct implies the greatest possible compression <a succinct letter of resignation>. laconic implies brevity to the point of seeming rude, indifferent, or mysterious <an aloof and laconic stranger>. summary suggests the statement of main points with no elaboration or explanation <a summary listing of the year's main events>. pithy adds to succinct or terse the implication of richness of meaning or substance <a comedy sharpened by pithy one-liners>. compendious applies to what is at once full in scope and brief and concise in treatment <a compendious dictionary>.

Rhymes with terse

TERSE Defined for Kids


adjective \ˈtərs\

Definition of terse for Students


  1. :  being brief and to the point <a terse statement>

tersely adverb

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up terse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


tending to dismiss important matters

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