1. Military. a short, factual oral summary of the details of a current or projected military operation given to the participants or observers.
  2. any set of concise instructions or a summary of events.

adjective, brief·er, brief·est.

  1. lasting or taking a short time; of short duration: a brief walk; a brief stay in the country.
  2. using few words; concise; succinct: a brief report on weather conditions.
  3. abrupt or curt.
  4. scanty: a brief bathing suit.


  1. a short and concise statement or written item.
  2. an outline, the form of which is determined by set rules, of all the possible arguments and information on one side of a controversy: a debater’s brief.
  3. Law.
    1. a writ summoning one to answer to any action.
    2. a memorandum of points of fact or of law for use in conducting a case.
    3. a written argument submitted to a court.
    4. (in England) the material relevant to a case, delivered by a solicitor to the barrister who tries the case.
  4. an outline, summary, or synopsis, as of a book.
  5. briefs, (used with a plural verb) close-fitting, legless underpants with an elastic waistband.
  6. a briefing.
  7. Roman Catholic Church. a papal letter less formal than a bull, sealed with the pope’s signet ring or stamped with the device borne on this ring.
  8. British Theater. a free ticket; pass.
  9. Obsolete. a letter.

verb (used with object)

  1. to make an abstract or summary of.
  2. to instruct by a brief or briefing: They brief all the agents before assigning them.
  3. Law. to retain as advocate in a suit.
  1. hold a brief for, to support or defend by argument; endorse.
  2. in brief, in a few words; in short: The supervisor outlined in brief the duties of the new assistant.


  1. a meeting at which detailed information or instructions are given, as for military operations, etc
  2. the facts presented during such a meeting


  1. short in durationa brief holiday
  2. short in length or extent; scantya brief bikini
  3. abrupt in manner; brusquethe professor was brief with me this morning
  4. terse or concise; containing few wordshe made a brief statement


  1. a condensed or short statement or written synopsis; abstract
  2. law a document containing all the facts and points of law of a case by which a solicitor instructs a barrister to represent a client
  3. RC Church a letter issuing from the Roman court written in modern characters, as contrasted with a papal bull; papal brief
  4. short for briefing
  5. a paper outlining the arguments and information on one side of a debate
  6. British slang a lawyer, esp a barrister
  7. hold a brief for to argue for; champion
  8. in brief in short; to sum up

verb (tr)

  1. to prepare or instruct by giving a summary of relevant facts
  2. to make a summary or synopsis of
  3. English law
    1. to instruct (a barrister) by brief
    2. to retain (a barrister) as counsel
  4. (intr foll by against) to supply potentially damaging or negative information regarding somone, as to the media, a politician, etcSee also briefs

“fact or situation of giving preliminary instructions,” 1910 (but popularized by World War II pre-flight conferences), verbal noun from brief (v.).


late 13c., from Latin brevis (adj.) “short, low, little, shallow,” from PIE *mregh-wi-, from root *mregh-u- “short” (cf. Greek brakhys “short,” Old Church Slavonic bruzeja “shallow places, shoals,” Gothic gamaurgjan “to shorten”).


from Latin breve (genitive brevis), noun derivative of adjective brevis (see brief (adj.)) which came to mean “letter, summary,” specifically a letter of the pope (less ample and solemn than a bull), and thus came to mean “letter of authority,” which yielded the modern, legal sense of “summary of the facts of a case” (1630s).


“to give instructions or information to,” 1866; originally “to instruct by a brief” (1862), from brief (n.). Related: Briefed; briefing.

see hold no brief for; in brief.

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