“Short list”

A final set of nominees  for a position, commission or award, from which the final selection is to be made. According the the Oxford English Dictionary, the now common verb form short-listed first appeared in 1961. The term is most associated with the Man Booker Prize, and appropriately so, since the prize (for best novel of the year “written by a citizen of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland, or Zimbabwe”) also has a prestigious “longlist” of twelve or thirteen books, from which the short list of six is chosen. Otherwise, it’s (merely) a synonym for nominee or finalist.

Google Ngram for "short-listed" in American English from 1990 through 2008

The distinguished critic R.Z. Sheppard, for his part, is short-listed by People magazine as one of the “Most Intriguing People of 2001,” although, frankly, I can’t quite see it. (Lance Morrow, Time, December 27, 200)/A literary establishment that had never so much as short-listed one of [David Foster Wallace's] books for a national prize now united to declare him a lost national treasure. (Jonathan Franzen, The New Yorker, April 18, 2011)

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2 responses to ““Short list”

  1. Just read your recent Slate pieces, in one of which you include “short-listed.” This is a familiar term, and not one that I associate with British English. Instead, I grew up hearing it used by my father, who is a general contractor. When an owner solicits bids for a project, they typically issue a short-list of contractors to give presentations and generally get closer to winning the job. I asked my father when and where he first heard “short-list”; he remembers it being used at least as far back as the early 70′so in the American Deep South.

    • Interesting–thanks. You don’t mention whether he used it or heard it used as verb, as it is commonly with Booker Prize and other awards–”the book was short-listed.”

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