Definition of shrift in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /SHrift/


1Confession, especially to a priest: go to shrift See also short shrift.
1.1Absolution by a priest.


Old English scrift 'penance imposed after confession', from shrive.

  • To give someone short shrift is to treat them in a curt and dismissive way. The phrase originally referred to the short time that a condemned criminal was allowed to make their confession to a priest and be shriven, prescribed a penance, and absolved of their sins, before being executed. Its first use in the literal sense comes in Shakespeare's Richard III: ‘Make a short shrift, he longs to see your head.’ The Shrove in Shrove Tuesday is a form of shriven. As the day before the start of Lent, it is marked by feasting and celebration before the Lent fast begins. In Britain people eat pancakes on the day, giving the alternative name Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday. Other countries celebrate it as the carnival of Mardi Gras, French for ‘Fat Tuesday’. See also carnival

Words that rhyme with shrift

adrift, drift, gift, grift, lift, rift, shift, sift, squiffed, swift, thrift, uplift

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: shrift

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.