briefly for a short while ago?


Senior Member

I'm wondering about something. Here's the sentence:
"Why was he so intimate with her, when they had only met briefly?"
(Veronica Henry, Marriage and Other Games)

Is it OK to use briefly like that to mean "a short while ago"? It might be, because it does sound familiar (although when you say "We've only met briefly" that's a little different: it means "we've only spent a short while together"), but the [Random House] dictionary gives only,

1.for a short duration: He stopped over briefly in Chicago.
2. in a few words: Let me explain briefly.
3. in a brief manner; quickly or brusquely: She nodded briefly and began to speak.

The usage in the example above doesn't fit in these three categories, does it?

Thank you!
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    No. In the first example, it means they had only been in each other's company for a brief period of time when they first met. If you wanted to express that it was a short time ago, you would say "recently" rather than "briefly".
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