‘Brevity is the soul of wit’ means that ‘conciseness is at the heart of cleverness or humor’. Brevity means being concise or brief. Wit here does not just mean being humorous. It also has a wider sense of being clever or sharp. So overall this saying means that if we want to sound clever or funny we need to be brief.
Originally, this phrase had an ironic meaning. This is because of its context. It was first coined in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, written around 1599. In Hamlet, the character Polonius says ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. But, Polonius is not a very concise person: he talks too much. Despite this, the saying has a kernel of truth to it.
Brevity or conciseness can be a virtue in all areas of life. Being concise shows that we appreciate the value of other people’s time. While making presentations, sticking to the point and being brief will stop people being swamped with information. Many times, short letters can be more welcome than long, rambling ones.
Just say what you feel without complicating things. Further, short, punchy jokes can be funnier.