General Science

  • adjective lasting only for a short time
  • noun a set of general instructions to enable somebody to perform his or her duties


  • verb to give basic information to somebody


  • noun instructions given to someone
  • verb to explain something to someone in detail


  • (written as Brief)
    A summary or explanation of an asset's condition, including the economic forecast for a country and potential exchange factors.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a set of instructions needed to perform a task, often used for legal instructions


  • noun details of a client’s case, prepared by a solicitor and given to the barrister who is going to argue the case in court

Media Studies

  • noun a short news article, anything from a few lines to a couple of paragraphs long.


  • verb to give orders or instructions


  • noun a lawyer. Derived from the ‘briefs’, or documents containing a résumé of each case, with which the lawyer is prepared or ‘briefed’. A working-class term used since before World War II by both police officers and criminals.
  • noun a passport. A word from the lexicon of drug smugglers, among others.

Origin & History of “brief”

Brief comes via Old French bref from Latin brevis ‘short’, which is probably related to Greek brakhús ‘short’, from which English gets the combining form brachy-, as in brachycephalic. Latin produced the nominal derivative breve ‘letter’, later ‘summary’, which came into English in the 14th century in the sense ‘letter of authority’ (German has brief simply meaning ‘letter’). The notion of an ‘abbreviation’ or ‘summary’ followed in the next century, and the modern legal sense ‘summary of the facts of a case’ developed in the 17th century. this formed the basis of the verbal sense ‘inform and instruct’, which is 19th-century. Briefs ‘underpants’ are 20th-century.

The musical use of the noun breve began in the 15th century when, logically enough, it meant ‘short note’. Modern usage, in which it denotes the longest note, comes from Italian breve. other derivatives of brief include brevity (16th c.), introduced into English via Anglo-Norman brevete; abbreviate (15th c.), from late Latin abbreviāre (which is also the source, via Old French abregier, of abridge (14th c.)); and breviary ‘book of church services’ (16th c.), from Latin breviārium.