borrowed from French, “spurt or gush of liquid,” noun derivative from feminine past participle of gicler
“to spurt, splash,” going back to Middle French, “to make gush” (attested once), borrowed from regional French (Lyonnais), borrowed from Franco-Provençal (Lyon) jiclio, jaclio
“to gush, spurt,” probably going back to Gallo-Romance *cīsculāre
(whence also Old Occitan cisclar, gisclar
“to rain and blow together,” Old French cisler
“to lash”), of uncertain origin
The forms jiclio, jaclio are from Nizier du Puitspelu (pen name of Clair Tisseur), Dictionnaire étymologique du patois lyonnais (Lyon, 1890), p. 225. For the many and diverse dialectal outcomes of *cīsculāre (with fluctuating initial voicing and several distinct sense fields: “scream,” “spurt, gush,” “whip, lash”) see Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, vol. 2/1, pp. 711-15.
According to paper and online sources, the French word giclée was first applied to ink-jet prints in 1991 by Jack Duganne, a printmaker working for Nash Editions in Manhattan Beach, California. A relatively early account of the origin can be found in “Paper Trail,” the editorial column of On Paper: The Journal of Prints, Drawing and Photography, vol. 1, no. 5 (May-June, 1997), p. 5: “When, in the mid-1980’s [recte, 1990-91], Nash Editions became the first press extensively involved in computer printmaking (with an Iris printer, in this case), it dubbed the works digital ink jet prints. This reflected, in a matter-of-fact manner, the process that takes an image scanned or generated on a computer, and then sends that image to be printed on a machine that spits out ink in minuscule jets … . ‘We had a man named Jack Duganne working with us at the time, who recognized there was no way to talk about this,’ says Nash Editions’s Mac Holbert. ‘He felt that if we just called it “digital ink jet print,” it would have absolutely no impact on the art world. So he went home to his French dictionary and found the word “gicler,” which means “to spray” or “to jet.”’ (Later, the printers discovered that the term in French was slang for ‘to ejaculate,’ which pleased them even more.) The term ‘giclée’ is still occasionally used. But even Nash Editions abandoned it as a ‘euphemism,’ and the more cumbersome ‘digital ink jet print’ prevails.”