adjective \ ˈtərs \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

Definition of terse

terser; tersest
1 : using few words : devoid of superfluity
  • a terse summary
; also : short, brusque
  • dismissed me with a terse "no"
2 : smoothly elegant : polished





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 GordonNewsweek29 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 JungerThe Perfect Storm1997
  3. This vicious cycle was captured succinctly in Gandhi's terse warning that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. —David McCabeCommonweal11 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 BarthHarper'sJanuary 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

Recent Examples of terse from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'terse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of terse

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

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

TERSE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of terse for English Language Learners

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

TERSE Defined for Kids


adjective \ ˈtərs \

Definition of terse for Students

terser; tersest
: being brief and to the point
  • a terse statement



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