Short Shrift


What does Short Shrift mean?

Short Shrift is a popular idiomatic expression, used to signal that one is disinterested in a topic and will give little attention to it.

The original meaning of the phrase, however, is literally a brief confession, given before an execution.

Today, it may be encountered in countless situations, although more so in the aforementioned manner, where a person is likely to dismiss the matter at hand with a “Short Shrift.”


What's the origin of Short Shrift?

The origins of “Short Shrift” can be traced back to  illiam Shakespeare’Richard III, which was published in 1597.

The play contains a scene, where the condemned is instructed to “Make a Short Shrift”, using the now archaic expression “Shrift”, which was a medieval synonym for confession.

Over the centuries, the quote from the play was elevated to an idiom, which is used and recognized even today, although its original use is not entirely extinct either.

Spread & Usage

How did Short Shrift spread?

“Short Shrift” started turning into an idiomatic phrase in the 19th century, where its use in print shows a significant increase. It appeared in a wide array of publications, novels and plays at that period, and would continue to do so in the subsequent decades.

The 20th century further increased the use of “Short Shrift”, which appeared even in radio shows, as well as TV series and movies.

Although by the turn of the 2000s, its popularity somewhat died down, it is still widely used and recognized today, and with the rise of the internet, “Short Shrift” has received a newer platform to spread and be used on.

While today, it is predominantly used for expressing disinterest in a subject, it may also be heard in the context of death row, where an inmate is ordered to make a “Short Shrift.”

External resources

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