\ ˈtərs How to pronounce terse (audio) \
terser; tersest

Definition of terse

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

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Other Words from terse

tersely adverb
terseness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of terse in a Sentence

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 … 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 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 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 She gave me a few terse instructions and promptly left the room. could tell from his terse replies to my questions that he was in no mood to talk
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Recent Examples on the Web

Hendry said his decision was not related to any rancor among board members or the sometimes-terse relationship between the board, which makes policy, and the Indiana Department of Education, which carries out that policy. Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star, "Turnover at Indiana State Board of Education continues as six-year member steps down," 4 June 2019 When these terse and cryptic characters finally decide to speak, there’s sure to be a buildup, a long stare and a pained expression to linger over; everything here feels a third longer than necessary. Jeremy Brock, New York Times, "Review: ‘Dark Crimes’ Finds Jim Carrey as a Brooding Cop," 17 May 2018 The terse remarks by Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang followed a meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, that produced markedly different responses from the two sides. Washington Post, "China wants Australian ‘concrete actions’ to improve ties," 22 May 2018 The Federal Bureau of Investigations issued a terse statement today regarding President Donald J. Trump's allegation via Twitter that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private mail server had been compromised by the Chinese government. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "FBI refutes Trump claim that Clinton’s private email server was hacked by China," 29 Aug. 2018 The insurgents’ terse announcement came as thousands of Taliban fighters continued swarming into cities and towns to celebrate the three-day Eid holiday, mingling cordially with civilians, hugging police officers and posing for selfies. Washington Post, "Taliban leaders reject Afghan government’s proposed cease-fire extension," 18 June 2018 Semi-respectable explanations are being floated for the Justice Department’s filing of a terse statement on Thursday appealing its loss in the antitrust case against the AT&T -Time Warner merger. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Why an Antitrust Farce Must Continue," 13 July 2018 The famously terse media site Axios would self-destruct before wasting a single moment of its readers’ busy days by publishing a word more than needed on any news, short of the apocalypse. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Scandalous EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Finally Resigns," 5 July 2018 My brain starts shutting down — communication is short and terse, planning suddenly seems impossible, a headache eventually follows. Author: Wayne And Wanda, Anchorage Daily News, "My girlfriend and I usually get along great. Then there are the hangry times.," 15 Apr. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of terse

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for terse

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

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Dictionary Entries near terse


Terry clock






Statistics for terse

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for terse

The first known use of terse was in 1601

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More Definitions for terse



English Language Learners Definition of terse

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


\ ˈtərs How to pronounce terse (audio) \
terser; tersest

Kids Definition of terse

: being brief and to the point a terse statement

Other Words from terse

tersely adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on terse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with terse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for terse

Spanish Central: Translation of terse

Nglish: Translation of terse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of terse for Arabic Speakers

Comments on terse

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


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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