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1. Summary, careless treatment; scant attention: These annoying memos will get short shrift from the boss.
2. Quick work.
a. A short respite, as from death.
b. The brief time before execution granted a condemned prisoner for confession and absolution.
Word History: 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 is scrifen, our shriven. 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.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. brief and unsympathetic treatment
2. (Historical Terms) (formerly) a brief period allowed to a condemned prisoner to make confession
3. make short shrift of to dispose of quickly and unsympathetically
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
1. a brief time for confession or absolution given to a condemned prisoner before his or her execution.
2. little attention or consideration in dealing with a person or matter.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.