Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial, Wikipedia.


any brief, rapid system of writing that may be used in transcribing, or recording, the spoken word. Such systems, many having characters based on the letters of the alphabet, were used in ancient times; the shorthand of Tiro, Cicero's amanuensis, was used for centuries. Modern systems date from 1588, when Timothy Bright published his 500-odd symbols for words; a French system was developed by Jacques Cossard in 1651, a German one in 1679. In 1602, Rev. John Willis published the Arte of Stenographie; there followed dozens of systems before 1837, when the shorthand of Isaac PitmanPitman, Sir Isaac,
1813–97, English inventor of phonographic shorthand. In Stenographic Soundhand (1837) he set forth a shorthand system based on phonetic rather than orthographic principles; adapted to more than a dozen languages, it became one of the most-used
..... Click the link for more information.
 appeared. This, with improvements, is in wide use in English-speaking countries today; it is perhaps the most rapid shorthand system and is favored by many court and convention reporters. The Pitman system makes use of shading (a line heavily drawn has a meaning different from that of the same line lightly drawn) and of differences in slope and position on a given line; it is geometric in outline and is difficult to master but makes possible very great speed. John Robert Gregg (1867–1948) in 1888 published a popular system of business shorthand that is still in use today. Its outlines are curved and natural, resembling those of ordinary script; need for lifting the pen was eliminated as much as possible, so that a cursive motion is used; there is no shading, but variation in length of line indicates variation in meaning. The outlines were scientifically worked out for simplicity and writing ease. Other shorthand systems employ shortened forms of longhand, e.g., Speedwriting, used where legibility is the principal concern. On the Continent, F. X. Gabelsberger (Germany) and Émile Duployé (France) originated widely used systems; in South America and Canada, the Sloan-Duployan shorthand is favored. Rapid writing with shorthand machines has also developed. Use of keyboard machines such as the Stenotype or Stenograph machines is extensive in courts of law and other places where great speed, silence, and portability of equipment are essential in recording speech; such machines are now computerized, with the transcribed text appearing on a small display screen. Even though now virtually all offices use computers and word-processingword processing,
use of a computer program or a dedicated hardware and software package to write, edit, format, and print a document. Text is most commonly entered using a keyboard similar to a typewriter's, although handwritten input (see pen-based computer) and audio input (as
..... Click the link for more information.
 software for correspondence, shorthand continues to have a role in business.


See H. Glatte, Shorthand Systems of the World (1959); L. A. Leslie, The Story of Gregg Shorthand (1964); J. R. Gregg, Gregg Shorthand Dictionary (1972).



(also called stenography), a system of rapid writing that uses signs and word and word-group abbreviations to achieve the synchronous transcription of speech and a more simplified and efficient technique of writing. The speed of shorthand is usually four to seven times that of ordinary writing.

Shorthand was known in remote antiquity. One of the earliest records of a shorthand system is an inscription on a marble slab dating from 350 B.C., found in the Acropolis of Athens. In the schools of ancient Rome, a system of rapid writing (notaría) was taught along with ordinary writing (abecedario). This system, which was used until the 11th century, was called Notae Tironianae after its inventor, Tiro (first century B.C.).

The term “stenography” was introduced in 1602 in England, by J. Willis. Since the 17th century, approximately 3,000 shorthand systems and variants have been devised worldwide. At the present time (1976), several dozen systems are used, in view of a continuing tendency to reduce the number of systems. The socialist countries are gradually adopting a unified state system of shorthand.

Modern shorthand has both cursive and geometric systems. The signs for consonants in the cursive systems are taken from elements of ordinary writing and are connected with lines. The signs in the geometric systems are circles, parts of circles, and straight lines inclined at various angles, all combined without connecting lines. Both types were invented in England: the geometric system by Willis (1602) and the cursive by S. Bordley (1789). The geometric systems are generally used for languages with relatively short words, such as English, French, and Spanish; the cursive systems, for languages with long words, such as the Slavic and Scandinavian languages and German. (See Figure 1 for illustrations of several shorthand systems.)

Shorthand systems may also be orthographic or phonetic. Orthographic systems retain the spelling patterns of ordinary writing, while phonetic systems form abbreviations by eliminating those letters that correspond to silent sounds. The Russian systems of M. A. Terne (1874) and of Z. I. Sapon’ko and A. I. Sa-pon’ko (1913) were based on stress: among internal vowels, only those with stress were retained.

Most shorthand systems represent consonants and vowels differently. In cursive systems, the consonants are depicted with elements of standard handwritten script. The vowels are depicted in several ways: by changing the length and direction of the thin line connecting the consonant signs; by altering the consonant signs, especially by making them heavier; and by changing the position of signs—raising or lowering them in relation to the line and to one another. The aggregate of shorthand signs for consonants is extralinguistic, thus facilitating the adaptation of a given shorthand system to different languages.

In prerevolutionary Russia, shorthand was rarely used. Predominating were variations of German cursive systems. The first original shorthand system for Russian that was put to practical use was the system of M. I. Ivanin, published in 1858 in his On Stenography or the Art of Rapid Writing and Its Application to Russian. Shorthand (Ivanin’s system) was first used in Russia in 1860, at the University of St. Petersburg, to transcribe a debate between Academician M. P. Pogodin and Professor N. I. Kosto-marov on the origins of Rus’.

After the October Revolution of 1917, new systems of shorthand appeared, including those of M. I. Lapekin (1920), N. I. Fa-leev (1922), and N. N. Sokolov (1924). During the 1920’s, when shorthand was taught according to different systems, the development of stenographic education was impeded.

A theoretical and practical comparison of the seven best shorthand systems was conducted by the People’s Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR in 1933. The all-Union Central Executive Committee of the RSFSR then adopted a decree introducing the Uniform State System of Shorthand (GESS) in the RSFSR, based mainly on Sokolov’s system.

The GESS system, now used in the USSR, is a cursive system based on a study of the biomechanics of writing, the frequency of the letters and morphemes in standard written material, and the frequency of the signs in shorthand systems. One of the principles of GESS is standardization: each word can be written in only one way. Vowels are indicated by changing the position of signs in relation to one another. The most convenient shorthand signs, that is, those most closely resembling elements of ordinary writing, are used to represent the most frequently occurring linguistic units. The GESS system has been adapted to Ukrainian, Uzbek, Georgian, Polish, and other languages.

The GESS system is continually being improved and simplified, with the aim of achieving maximum ease of transcription and of learning. Major efforts are being directed toward closely approximating shorthand signs to elements of the letters used in ordinary handwriting, toward eliminating signs impeding standardized connections between combinations of consonants and vowels, and toward reducing the number of composite signs, that is, those representing consonant clusters.


Ershov, N. A., comp. Obzor russkikh stenograficheskikh sistem: Istoriia, kritika i literatura russkoi stenografii. St. Petersburg, 1880.
Sokolov, N. N. Teoreticheskie osnovy gosudarstvennoi edinoi sistemy stenografii. Moscow, 1949.
Iurkovskii, A. M. Stenografiia skvoz’ veka. Moscow, 1969.
Petrásek, J. Déjiny tésnopisu. Prague, 1973.


References in periodicals archive ?
For this, you must learn written or machine shorthand; gain experience as a trainee court reporter; and reach a machine shorthand speed of at least 180 words a minute.
We reported on how fire crews are to be trained to offer potential life-saving treatment to accident victims should they be first on the scene, using the term 'paramedic skills' as recognisable shorthand for this practice.
And he doesn't even have to go through the hell-on-earth trials of passing that blasted 100wpm shorthand exam - a standard requirement in the world of print journalism.
Helen, who lives in Norwich, said yesterday: "I was determined to get my shorthand because I hadn't felt I was able to write quickly enough to get down all the information when interviewing people."
The fervently antisentimental Lifshitz is so unfazed by the intimacy of men together and so averse to the cliche signifiers of coming out (the wary parents; the funny, asexual gal pal), he is able to bypass conventional narrative gestures altogether and speak to us in a kind of emotional shorthand.
The narrative rattles past texts, biographies, philosophies and religious shifts with a speed that lends itself to shorthand. Yet my curiosity grew as I read and, willy-nilly, a certain fascination grew at the same time.
In New Orleans, reader John Wisinger saw a car in front of a Jesuit high school that sports AMDG, shorthand for the Ignatian motto Ad maiorem Dei gloriam ("To the greater glory of God").
The problem here is Beltway-speak, the lazy confusion of presidential character with "the character issue," which is media shorthand for whether or not voters trust Clinton after Whitewater and Troopergate and Paula Jones and so on.
If you look at Stenograph's website, you'll find "Bella's Boutique," an area that sells gifts and novelties for people in the shorthand reporting business.
Tenders are invited for Supply of Book Note Shorthand Book Note Shorthand of leaves (i.e.
While reading the shorthand record and learning how the deputy Prime Minister beats about the bush and escapes from answering the specific question, I thought that the President might give up, but he did not do it," the Vice-President stated.
FOUR of Coventry University's 40 journalism students have had classes in shorthand cancelled.