\ ˈjist How to pronounce gist (audio) \

Definition of gist

1 : the ground (see ground entry 1 sense 4a) of a legal action
2 : the main point or part : essence the gist of an argument

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The word gist often appears in such contexts as "the gist of the conversation was that…" to let us know that what follows will be a statement or summary that in some way encapsulates the main point or overarching theme. The gist of a conversation, argument, story, or what-have-you is what we rely on when the actual words and details are only imperfectly recalled, inessential, or too voluminous to recount in their entirety. Gist was borrowed from the Anglo-French legal phrase laccion gist ("the action lies or is based [on]") in the 17th century, and it was originally used in law as a term referring to the foundation or grounds for a legal action without which the action would not be legally sustainable.

Examples of gist in a Sentence

Thus, Poulterers' Case gave rise to a doctrine which survives to this day: the gist of conspiracy is the agreement, and so the agreement is punishable even if its purpose was not achieved. — Wayne R. LaFave & Austin W. Scott, Jr., Criminal Law, (1972) 1986 … Einstein showed how time intervals depend on the motion of people and clocks doing the measuring. And that's the gist of relativity. — Alan Lightman, Science, January/February 1984 Dorothea told him that she had seen Lydgate, and recited the gist of her conversation with him about the Hospital. — George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1872 didn't catch every word between them, but heard enough to get the gist of the conversation
Recent Examples on the Web Here's the gist: Taking a snack break can open players up to attack by opponents. Danielle Wiener-bronner, CNN, 4 Apr. 2022 The gist is an orderly tumult of sensations fed by, and feeding, an impression of besetting emergency. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 4 Apr. 2022 In the early stages, the basic gist is that certain drugs can help to relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and decrease the strain on your heart. Korin Miller, SELF, 19 Feb. 2022 The basic gist of the decades-old quiz show Jeopardy! Jack Butler, National Review, 26 Aug. 2021 But the gist is that The Batman is less interested in returning to the origin story of a 1930s creation so much as his dime-store-pulp roots. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 28 Feb. 2022 The gist is that the government, in fact, killed them off and replaced them with drones to spy on us. Andy Meek, BGR, 16 Feb. 2022 Here's the gist: Taking a snack break can open players up to attack by opponents. Danielle Wiener-bronner, CNN, 9 Feb. 2022 At least that’s the gist of the statement from Battinto Batts, the dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU in announcing Roker’s selection. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 27 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gist.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of gist

1632, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gist

Anglo-French, it lies, from gisir to lie, ultimately from Latin jacēre — more at adjacent

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Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Gist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for gist


\ ˈjist How to pronounce gist (audio) \

Kids Definition of gist

: the main point of a matter He spoke so fast, I only got the gist of the story.


\ ˈjist How to pronounce gist (audio) \

Legal Definition of gist

: the ground or foundation of a legal action without which it would not be sustainable

History and Etymology for gist

Anglo-French, in the phrase laccion gist the action lies or is based (on), from gisir to lie (of process), from Old French gesir to lie, ultimately from Latin jacere

More from Merriam-Webster on gist

Nglish: Translation of gist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gist for Arabic Speakers


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