Short shrift

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The idiom short shrift means brief and unsympathetic treatment.1 Shrift comes from the archaic verb shrive, meaning to impose a penance upon. In its original form short shrift referred to a brief period of penance granted to a person condemned to death so he or she could be cured of immorality before execution.2 This original meaning has little relation to the modern sense of short shrift, which usually bears negative connotations. One usually does not want to be given short shrift.


I used to think George Washington was getting kind of short shrift by being reduced to selling cars on his birthday. [Union Leader]

Activism is often given short shrift in the tellings of history, making it appear tangential to the story of the important historical actors involved, rebellions staged, and the machinations of the war. [Indy Bay]

Tindall gave short shrift to press photographers in New Zealand yesterday, barking ‘no pictures’. [Mirror]

With No Child Left Behind spurring a narrow fixation on math and reading over the last decade, science and other subjects have gotten short shrift. [Chicago Sun-Times]


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Other resources

“Short shrift” on World Wide Words
“Short Shrift” at The Phrase Finder

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