Definition of terse in English:

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Pronunciation: /tərs/

adjective (terser, tersest)

Sparing in the use of words; abrupt: a terse statement
More example sentences
  • The terse, 10-word motion will be considered by members in a special hour-long debate this afternoon.
  • The submitted essays range in length from a few terse words to a screenful of close type.
  • The board also issued a terse statement which was a big slap in the face for their second-largest individual shareholder.
brief, short, to the point, concise, succinct, crisp, pithy, incisive, trenchant, short and sweet, laconic, elliptical;
brusque, abrupt, curt, clipped, blunt, pointed, ungracious, gruff



Pronunciation: /ˈtərslē/
Example sentences
  • Allen tersely responded at one point that ‘the board's responsibility is to put in place management to run the organisation’.
  • Having tersely summed up two arguments that I disagree with in various ways, I'll get on with my own argument.
  • Mrs Nokes proffered a hand, and the fierce rivals shook tersely before leaving the stage.


Pronunciation: /ˈtərsnəs/
Example sentences
  • Murakami writes with a terseness that might be called minimalist, but the stories achieve a splendidly unminimalist richness, often taking on the potency of fable.
  • The bell boys and concierge are overrun at times with mountains of luggage and shuttle bus responsibilities and so can be forgiven their occasional terseness.
  • This insightful writing is complemented by direction that has a levelheaded terseness to it, that always keeps the film centered, and propels it forward to its inevitable climax.


Early 17th century: from Latin tersus 'wiped, polished', from the verb tergere. The original sense was 'polished, trim, spruce', (relating to language) 'polished, polite', hence 'concise and to the point' (late 18th century).

  • In the early 17th century terse meant ‘polished, trim, spruce’, and when applied to language ‘polished, polite’. It goes back to Latin tersus ‘wiped, polished’. The sense we have today developed from the idea of language from which everything unnecessary has been trimmed away, and which is concise and to the point—as in the historian Lord Macaulay's praise of a passage as giving ‘an eminently clear, terse, and spirited summary’.

Words that rhyme with terse

amerce, asperse, averse, biodiverse, burse, coerce, converse, curse, diverse, Erse, hearse, immerse, intersperse, nurse, perse, perverse, purse, reimburse, submerse, terce, transverse, verse, worse

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: terse

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