- Summary, careless treatment; scant attention: These annoying memos will get short shrift from the boss.
- Quick work.
a. A short respite, as from death.
b. The brief time before execution granted a condemned prisoner for confession and absolution.
To be given short shrift is not the blessing it once was. The source of our verb shrive (shrove, shriven)
and noun shrift,
which have technical meanings from ecclesiastical Latin, is Classical Latin scrībere,
“to write.” Shrive
comes from the Old English verb scrīfan,
“to decree, decree after judgment, impose a penance upon (a penitent), hear the confession of.” The past participle of scrīfan
The noun shrift,
“penance; absolution,” comes from Old English scrift
with the same meaning, which comes from scrīptus,
the perfect passive participle of scrībere,
and means “what is written,” or, to use the Latin word, “what is prescribed.” Theologians and confessors viewed the sacrament of penance as a prescription that cured a moral illness. In early medieval times penances were long and arduous—lengthy pilgrimages and even lifelong exile were not uncommon—and had to be performed before
absolution, not after as today. However, less demanding penances could be given in extreme situations; short shrift
was a brief penance given to a person condemned to death so that absolution could be granted before execution.
(plural short shrifts)
- (informal, sometimes preceded by the) A quick rejection, especially one which is impolite and undertaken without proper consideration.
- The bank gave me short shrift when I applied for a loan.
Originally, a rushed sacrament of confession (shrift) given to a prisoner who was to be executed very soon.