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Part of a text written in Gregg Shorthand (sense 1)
A sample of Pitman shorthand (sense 1)

The noun is derived from short +‎ hand (handwriting; style of penmanship). The verb is derived from the noun.[1]



shorthand (countable and uncountable, plural shorthands)

  1. A rough and rapid method of writing by substituting symbols for letters, words, etc.
    Synonyms: (obsolete) brachygraphy, stenography, phonography
    Antonym: longhand
    • 1747 November 30, Aulay Macaulay, “Advertisement”, in Polygraphy or Short-hand Made Easy to the Meanest Capacity: Being an Universal Character Fitted to All Languages: [], London: Printed for the author, [] also sold by T[homas] Osborne, [], →OCLC, page IV:
      There is a Notion prevails among many People, to yͤ prejudice of all kinds of Short-hand; which is this. That when a Person sets down a Memorandum in his pocket Book in Short-hand, it is lost, in caſe of Death or any other accident, to yͤ rest of yͤ World, though it may contain things of great Consequence to other People. [...] I affirm, [...] that if any Person makes use of my long Short hand, which he will certainly do, in caſe he deſigns that what he writes should be read by another Person, it will be as legible to any one acquainted with this Art, as if it was writ in Round Hand.
    • 1748 May 26, Samuel Jeake, “XIV. The Elements of a Short Hand.”, in Philosophical Transactions. Giving Some Account of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours, of the Ingenious, in Many Considerable Parts of the World, volume XLV, number 487, London: Printed for C. Davis, [], printer to the Royal Society, →OCLC, page 348:
      All ſhort Hands are ſubject to Ambiguity; for there being but 8 Marks to repreſent 24 Letters, and thoſe 8 being uſed for 8 of them in the Short Hand Alphabets, the other Letters muſt be deſcribed by Characters compounded of theſe 8.
    • 1796, T[homas] M[olineux], “On the Vowels”, in An Abridgement of Mr. Byrom’s Universal English Short-hand; [], 2nd edition, London: Printed for the editor; and sold by H. Lowndes, [], →OCLC, 1st part:
      A is denoted by a dot at the top of the Short-hand line; [...] The vowel a, in Short-hand, is used for the article a, or ah; [...]
    • 1818, Edward Lawson, “General Plan”, in Chancery and Court-hand Explained, with an Easy, Rapid, and Distinct Short Hand, London: Printed by I. Colles, []; for J[oseph] Butterworth, [], →OCLC, page 1:
      [...] I was soon convinced, that our articles a an the should also be omitted: especially as the two former are comparatively infrequent, and the latter a perpetual incumbrance in other Short-hands.
    • 1821, P[eregrine] Bingham [the Younger], “On Shorthand Spelling and Punctuation, and on the Effect of the Position of Characters According to this System”, in A System of Shorthand on the Principle of the Association of Ideas, London: Printed by J[oseph] Butterworth and Son, [], →OCLC, section I, page 7:
      In writing shorthand words are always to be spelled as they are sounded, and without any regard to orthography.
    • 1874, W. E. Scovil, A Short-hand Legible as the Plainest Writing, and Requiring No Teacher but the Book. With a Simplified System of Verbatim Reporting, 6th American edition, New York, N.Y.: W. E. Scovil, Jr., [], →OCLC, part I (Stenography), page 1:
      A good Short-hand must be easy, swift, and legible.
    • 1898, Frank Rutherford, “A Song of Light-line”, in John Robert Gregg, Gregg’s Shorthand: A Light Line Phonography for the Million, 7th American edition, Chicago, Ill.: Published by the author [], →OCLC, page 120:
      Now, if you are wise, and would shorthand acquire, / Just throw your old text-books straight into the fire. / Then take up Light-Line—in the matter of speed, / There's nothing can beat it—of this take good heed. / 'Tis most easy to learn, to read and in fine— / No shorthand can equal GREGG'S MODERN LIGHT-LINE.
    • 1918, Isaac Pitman, A History of Shorthand, 4th edition, London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd. [], →OCLC, page 1:
      The origin of shorthand writing has been variously attributed to the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. It is not unlikely that some form of stenography, or method of (comparatively) rapid writing by means of signs or characters briefer than those of the script ordinarily in use, was developed independently among the penmen or scribes of many early nations. [...] But the natural eagerness of stenographers to claim great antiquity for their art has sometimes tempted them to cite as references to shorthand passages which do not necessarily bear any such meaning.
    • 1986, Rudolf Flesch, “A Letter to Johnny’s Mother”, in Why Johnny Can’t Read – and What You can Do about It, 1st Perennial Library edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, publishers, →ISBN, page 3:
      Right away you say that nobody learns how to read shorthand. People who want to know shorthand learn how to write it; the reading of it comes by the way.
  2. (by extension) Any brief or shortened way of saying or doing something.
    The jargon becomes a shorthand for these advanced concepts.
    • 2004, Edwin S[cott] Gaustad, Leigh E. Schmidt, “Beginnings”, in The Religious History of America, revised edition, New York, N.Y.: HarperCollins, →ISBN, part I (Religion in the Colonial Era), page 6:
      It is important to recall that the European construct of "the Indian" and the abstraction designated as "Native American religion" are both artificial labels suggesting a unity that is nowhere to be found. When we borrow such shorthands, we are really referring to the Arapaho, Blackfeet, Chumash, Delaware, Eskimo, Flathead, Ghost Dancers, Hopi, Iowa—and so on through the rest of the alphabet right to the Yuma and Zuni.
    • 2010, Mick Herron, Slow Horses, page 119:
      Trust me, he's Pakistani, because that's the average numpty's shorthand for Muslim.
    • 2011, Brad Williams, Ozh Richard, Justin Tadlock, “Plugin Foundation”, in Professional WordPress Plugin Development (Wrox Professional Guides), Indianapolis, Ind.: Wiley, →ISBN, page 26:
      You shouldn't use the shorthand PHP tags (<? ?>) in your code. The reason for this is that shorthand PHP tags must be enabled on your server before they will function. Many hosting configurations have this feature disabled by default, which means your plugin would immediately break when activated in WordPress.
    • 2018 June 5, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Vanessa Friedman, Matthew Schneier, “Kate Spade, whose handbags carried women into adulthood, is dead at 55”, in The New York Times[1], New York, N.Y.: The New York Times Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 6 June 2018:
      Her [Kate Spade's] name became a shorthand for the cute, clever bags that were an instant hit with cosmopolitan women in the early stages of their careers and, later, young girls – status symbols of a more attainable, all-American sort than a Fendi clutch or Chanel bag.

Alternative forms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]



shorthand (third-person singular simple present shorthands, present participle shorthanding, simple past and past participle shorthanded)

  1. (transitive) To render (spoken or written words) into shorthand.
    • 1947, Bill [i.e., Elijah William] Cunningham, The Pearl of Her Sex, New York, N.Y.: G[eorge] P[almer] Putnam’s Sons, →OCLC, page 23:
      All the time she'd pretended to be fiddling with her purse over there behind the man, she'd been shorthanding him down—every word, every quotation, every date, every name.
    • 2012, J. L. Dobias, chapter 19, in Cripple Mode: Hot Electric, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, pages 383–384:
      Most everything is in the safe on digital media, but there were some sessions he didn't record. He'd just shorthanded his notes during and after the sessions. I never learned shorthand, so there's no way I could decipher most of it, if you know what I mean.
  2. (transitive, by extension) To use a brief or shortened way of saying or doing something.
    • 1957 November 7, George Brown, “Queen’s Speech: Debate on the Address”, in Parliamentary Debates (Hansard): House of Commons Official Report (House of Commons of the United Kingdom), volume 577, London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, →ISSN, →OCLC, columns 323–324:
      It seems to me, however one looks at it—and I am torpedoing, "shorthanding", my arguments, though they can be developed at great ​length—that there is no military case for a large standing Army, and I pick out three arguments that I think are tremendously important which I should like the Minister to answer, even though he may reject them.
    • 2003, Amy Villarejo, “Conclusion: Straight to Video”, in Lesbian Rule: Cultural Criticism and the Value of Desire, Durham, N.C., London: Duke University Press, →ISBN, page 191:
      By "home video" I mean to shorthand the practice of viewing at home texts that come to us via a range of sources and formats, such as cable/satellite and pay-per-view television, mail order services (that send in the mail gay-related videotapes to far-flung subscribers), Web-based media, videotapes, laser discs, and dvds.
    • 2005 June, Cory Doctorow, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town[2], New York, N.Y.: Tor Books, →ISBN; 1st trade paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Tom Doherty Associates, 2006, →ISBN:
      He liked [John Dann] MacDonald's books: You could always tell who the villainesses were because the narrator made a point of noting they had fat asses. It was as good a way as any to shorthand the world, he thought.
    • 2009 (indicated as 2010), Daniel Burstein, Arne de Keijzer, Secrets of The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Guide: Unlock the Mysteries and History Found in The Da Vinci code Sequel, New York, N.Y.: William Morrow and Company, →ISBN, page 40:
      [Dan] Brown shorthands the argument that Freemasonry really is inclusive through the personas and characters of Katherine Solomon and Warren Bellamy.
    • 2011, Sean Black, chapter 27, in Deadlock: A Ryan Lock Thriller, London: Corgi Books, Transworld Publishers, →ISBN, pages 155–156:
      She watched as Trooper pulled out a pack of cigarettes and fumbled in his pocket for a lighter, an expensive-looking Zippo with the number 88 engraved on the front plate – each eight standing for the eighth letter of the alphabet, the two Hs together shorthanding the phrase 'Heil Hitler'.
    • 2012, Necati Polat, “Integration”, in International Relations, Meaning and Mimesis (Interventions), Abingdon, Oxfordshire, New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, page viii:
      I refer to processes of deterritorialization and reterritorialization across the globe at various levels, such as decentralized business, frontier fluidity, increased and multifarious transnational movement, recast urban space and blended cultures, in short all that is often shorthanded in the term globalization.
  3. (intransitive) To write in shorthand.
    • 1953, Vargo Statten [pseudonym; John Russell Fearn], chapter 1, in Pioneer 1990 (Scion Science Fiction), London: Scion, →OCLC; republished London: Gateway, 2015, →ISBN:
      Steele nodded and settled on the chesterfield. He regarded Betty seriously, her notebook poised on the table beside her as she reclined in her chair. [...] "I remember," Betty acknowledged, and went on shorthanding.



  1. ^ shorthand, n. and adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1914; “shorthand, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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