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

Example Sentences

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 The other likely reason for his terse demeanor was his performance on Saturday. Detroit Free Press, 3 Sep. 2022 Utah Democratic Party spokesperson Ben Anderson offered a terse comment on Sinema’s visit. Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Aug. 2022 Passalis’ script, co-written with Eleni Vergeti, is terse, yet there are whole dialogues of chemistry going on in the exchanges between his kind, crinkling eyes and her open, anxious gaze. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 9 July 2022 Yet while Lader and Walker’s script teases a more acidic strain of social satire, the film’s generally terse approach extends to its commentary. Guy Lodge, Variety, 18 Mar. 2022 The information was terse, only that Giffords had been shot. Lisa Kennedy, Variety, 15 Mar. 2022 The dialogue is terse, aphoristic, cutting, and delivered frankly, plainly, with little artifice or mannerism. Richard Brod, The New Yorker, 14 July 2021 His exchanges with Rob are terse to the point of being hostile. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 15 July 2021 As a result, communication with his team was terse and brief. Ashton Shanks, Forbes, 25 May 2021 See More

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.

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 9 Dec. 2022.

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.