terser; tersest
: using few words : devoid of superfluity
a terse summary
also : short, brusque
dismissed me with a terse "no"
: smoothly elegant : polished
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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web This is a terse work, without the far-ranging development of other works by Mendelssohn; ideas come and go quickly, and the provocative brevity becomes a theme in itself. Luke Shulze, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Aug. 2023 Sounding terse in a social media comment is of less concern. Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Aug. 2023 The conversations have been described as brief and terse. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 21 July 2023 Her text messages from London are infrequent and terse. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, 19 June 2023 White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had a terse, one-word answer when asked on Thursday if there was any chance President Joe Biden would consider pardoning his son. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, 27 July 2023 In a terse filing dated July 21, the lawyers rejected Paxton’s argument that the senators can’t be impartial jurors and accused his team of leaking the document asking for their removal to the press before it had been posted to a website set up to share official information with the public. Lauren McGaughy, Dallas News, 24 July 2023 In 2021, the Alabama native’s move to require stringent COVID countermeasures at his shows led to a terse exchange with fellow songwriter Marc Broussard, who accused Isbell of being an elitist and who drew Isbell’s scorn for being a fool. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, 20 July 2023 When an agent from Shein wrote Perry offering to feature her artwork on the site, Perry gave a terse response. James Powel, USA TODAY, 19 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'terse.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of terse was in 1601

Dictionary Entries Near terse

Cite this Entry

“Terse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terse. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


terser; tersest
: being brief and to the point : concise
a terse summary
also : curt, brusque
dismissed me with a terse "no"
tersely adverb
terseness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on terse

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