Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Short Shrift


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is short shrift. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Short shrift is most often used to mean “little or no attention or consideration.” It is also sometimes synonymous with “quick work” as in “she made short shrift of that jigsaw puzzle.”

// Year-end “best of” lists can be fun to read, but because taste is subjective, they will always end up giving short shrift to someone’s favorite movies, albums, etc.


“People should make boring predictions more often. Like boring opinions, they are more common and more likely to be accurate, but they get short shrift because they don’t fit the easy narratives of success or failure.” — Gideon Lichfield,, 13 Dec. 2022

Did You Know?

We’ve got a confession to make, but we’ll keep it brief: while it’s technically possible to make “long shrift” of something, you’re unlikely to find long shrift in our (virtual or actual) pages anytime soon. Short shrift, on the other hand, has been keeping it real—real terse, that is—for centuries. The earliest known use of the phrase comes from William Shakespeare’s play Richard III, in which Lord Hastings, who has been condemned by King Richard to be beheaded, is told by Sir Richard Ratcliffe to “Make a short shrift” as the king “longs to see your head.” Although now archaic, the noun shrift was understood in Shakespeare’s time to refer to the confession or absolution of sins, so “make a short shrift” meant, quite literally, “keep your confession short.” However, since at least the 19th century the phrase has been used figuratively to refer to a small or inadequate amount of time or attention given to something.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a ReplyCancel reply