“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)

4 thoughts on ““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.

    1. 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.”

  2. The list after the longlist is the shortlist both unhyphenated single words, and the verb forms similarly, in BrE. Short list would be any list that wasn’t long.

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