Definition of brief in English:

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Pronunciation: /briːf/


1Of short duration; not lasting for long: the president made a brief working visit to Moscow
More example sentences
  • The brief visit left no time for discovery or inquiry.
  • A brief visit to the temple in the house completes his morning routine before breakfast with the family.
  • It consists of regularly scheduled, brief office visits.
1.1Concise in expression; using few words: introductions were brief and polite be brief and don’t talk for longer than is necessary
More example sentences
  • A few brief words about the move to Skaggerak in 1902.
  • A brief word, though, about Ms. Young, whom I'd never heard of before.
  • With a brief word from his chauffeur, they were allowed admittance.
2(Of a piece of clothing) not covering much of the body; scanty: Alison sported a pair of extremely brief black shorts
More example sentences
  • The room Tripitaka entered contained about 30 women, all dressed in very brief clothing.
  • A cheerful female gorilla garbed in a brief shirt and a halter top stood at a podium.
  • God, how she wished she were wearing something more than her brief underwear.


1British A set of instructions given to a person about a job or task: his brief is to turn round the county’s fortunes
More example sentences
  • When we receive a brief from a casting director, we go through our book of models and put forward who we think is suitable for the job.
  • After receiving an informative brief on the testing process given by the warrant officer, the staff were counted.
  • Chief executives of government authorities often complain that they are not given an unambiguous brief with clear mandates and a single objective.
instructions, directions, directives, briefing;
information, guidelines, guidance;
remit, mandate
informal gen, rundown, low-down
2 Law , British A summary of the facts and legal points in a case given to a barrister to argue in court.
Example sentences
  • My brief in this matter arose only some 40 minutes ago.
  • I don't know whether there has been an order for briefs to be filed.
summary of the facts, case, argument, contention;
2.1A piece of work for a barrister: he cannot be too highly recommended, if he is free and will take the brief
More example sentences
  • He was a barrister, he was offered a brief.
  • Indeed, Mr Ross, now in his seventies, is still at his desk, working as a barrister taking briefs.
  • The Bar Council last week announced that barristers could now take briefs directly from members of the public.
2.2British informal A solicitor or barrister: it was only his brief’s eloquence that had saved him from prison
2.3US A written statement of the facts and legal points supporting one side of a case, for presentation to a court.
Example sentences
  • The briefs on the other side of the case were written exclusively by major media companies, congressmen, and copyright holders.
  • The team put together mountains of legal briefs to support the argument that Texas had no right to control the private conduct of its citizens.
  • The Association has issued a number of legal briefs to support the civil rights of individuals.
3A letter from the Pope to a person or community on a matter of discipline.
Example sentences
  • He has delivered a papal brief recommending it to that prince that he will take the same steps in this matter.
  • He discovered that the agreement, far from being in accordance with the papal Brief, was in direct opposition to it.
  • For a papal brief to be valid, it has to be read in the presence of those whom it concerns.


[with object]
1Instruct or inform (someone) thoroughly, especially in preparation for a task: she briefed him on last week’s decisions
More example sentences
  • He has all the information you'll need and will brief you thoroughly.
  • However, you can't fake knowledge, and the waiter was thoroughly briefed on all aspects of the menu.
  • Figuring I'd briefed him thoroughly on the other aspects of the policy, I answered his question.
inform of, tell about, bring up to date on, update on, notify of, advise of, acquaint with, apprise of, give information about;
prepare, prime, instruct, direct, guide
informal give the gen on, give the rundown on, fill in on, gen up on, put in the picture about, clue in on, clue up about, keep up to speed with
2British Instruct (a barrister) by brief.
Example sentences
  • The exercise of sound judgment in briefing a barrister is one of the professional services a solicitor offers a client.
  • We say that the solicitor was engaged and then briefed a barrister.
  • That evening his solicitor was briefed by the police as to the circumstances of his arrest.



hold a brief for

British Be retained as counsel for.
Example sentences
  • This time around the lawyer parliamentarian is holding a brief for the devil.
  • Often counsel holding a brief for another does not read it in the confident expectation that the case would be postponed.

hold no brief for

British Not support or argue in favour of: I hold no brief for dishonest policemen
More example sentences
  • I definitely hold no brief for the Board and can never support its stand on these matters.
  • I hold no brief for the organization, and the vast majority of Americans don't either.
  • This newspaper holds no brief for the Chief Justice.

in brief

In a few words; in short: he is, in brief, the embodiment of evil the news in brief
More example sentences
  • Taking a look at news in brief tonight, a winter storm dropped up to 10 inches of snow in parts of the Midwest.
  • The consequence is mass unemployment and weakened schemes for social protection - in brief, a breaking up of society.
  • Here's the big guy's cinematic history in brief.



Pronunciation: /ˈbriːfnəs/
Example sentences
  • Despite the briefness of the play, there is certainly no lack of depth here.
  • Surprised by the briefness of the conversation, I stuttered back, ‘O-okay, I guess.’
  • Despite its briefness, Mason's work is the best of the three actors who are first billed in the film.


Middle English: from Old French brief, from Latin brevis 'short'. The noun is via late Latin breve 'note, dispatch', hence 'an official letter'.

  • Briefs or underpants, which were first worn in the 1930s, are literally ‘shorts’. Brief comes from the Latin word brevis, meaning ‘short’, a root shared by abbreviate (Late Middle English) and the musical note breve (Late Middle English), which used to mean a short note.

Words that rhyme with brief

aperitif, beef, belief, chief, enfeoff, fief, grief, interleaf, leaf, Leif, lief, Mazar-e-Sharif, misbelief, motif, naif, O'Keeffe, reef, seif, Sharif, sheaf, shereef, sportif, Tenerife, thief

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: brief

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