noun \ ˈjist \
|Updated on: 16 Jul 2018

Definition of gist

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

gist was our Word of the Day on 05/06/2014. Hear the podcast!

Examples of gist in a Sentence

  1. 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
  2. … Einstein showed how time intervals depend on the motion of people and clocks doing the measuring. And that's the gist of relativity. —Alan LightmanScienceJanuary/February 1984
  3. Dorothea told him that she had seen Lydgate, and recited the gist of her conversation with him about the Hospital. —George EliotMiddlemarch1872
  4. didn't catch every word between them, but heard enough to get the gist of the conversation

Recent Examples of gist from the Web

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.

Did You Know?

The gist of the conversation was that .... The word gist often appears in such contexts 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 "[cest] action gist" ("[this] action lies") in the early 18th century, and was originally used in legal contexts as a term referring to the foundation or grounds for a legal action without which that action would not be legally sustainable.

Origin and Etymology of gist

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

gist Synonyms


sum and substance, the long and short (or the long and the short);

GIST Defined for Kids


noun \ ˈjist \

Definition of gist for Students

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

Law Dictionary


noun \ ˈjist \

legal Definition of gist

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

Origin and Etymology of 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

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one who attends or assists a leader

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