English speakers have heard and occasionally use the expression “short shrift” as in giving “little or no attention to”: He gives short shrift to the work of contemporary composers, or “quick work” such as: They made short shrift of their homework, so they could go outside to play.
The implication is that it is something little, brief or non-existent. But what exactly does the word “shrift” mean? We don’t use it in any other context today, except when combined with “short”.
Here is Merriam-Webster‘s definition of shrift:
archaic(n): a remission of sins pronounced by a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation : the act of shriving: confessional
Dictionary.com defines it:
Picture downloaded from Google images.
Google images: rollingout.com
But the word shrift itself comes from Old English scrift (before AD 900) meaning “penance.” This is a false cognate of German and Dutch schrift, which means “writing”. (It’s a false cognate because although it is a similar word, it doesn’t mean the same thing.)