\ 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 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.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web But the gist is that Champagne undergoes two different fermentation cycles. Stephanie Cain, Fortune, "Why zero-dosage, super-dry Champagnes are popping everywhere," 8 Feb. 2020 Here's the gist: A centrifuge the size of a football field will spin a rocket around in circles for about an hour until its speed eventually exceeds 5,000 miles per hour. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "This Company Built a Gigantic Centrifuge to Fling Rockets Into Space," 30 Jan. 2020 The gist is that the rest of the buildings processed and refined and shaped uranium, and all of the leftovers from those buildings were shipped to Plant 8., "Accused podcast, Season 3, Chapter 7: A variance in views," 21 Jan. 2020 The gist is: Because efforts to control climate change failed and now 99.99 percent of the world is frozen, the remaining survivors are stuck together on a train that never stops moving in one, long track around the globe. Katherine J Igoe, Marie Claire, "The Most Anticipated TV Shows of 2020," 2 Jan. 2020 The gist of it is to do good to others, sight unseen. Scott Springer,, "Cincinnati Country Day mourns star JR Menifee, who did good deeds when no one looked," 3 Dec. 2019 The list could go on and on, but the gist is clear. Liberty Vittert, The Conversation, "Are conspiracy theories on the rise in the US?," 18 Sep. 2019 In a letter requesting a tougher line on Maduro from European leaders this month, Guaidó outlined the gist of the opposition’s position. Mariana Zuñiga, Washington Post, "Venezuela’s struggling opposition seeks to tap into uprising wave across South America," 16 Nov. 2019 Nick and his attorneys had alleged that the gist of The Washington Post's first article conveyed that Nick had assaulted or physically intimidated Nathan Phillips and engaged in racist conduct. Cameron Knight, USA TODAY, "Judge to allow portion of Nick Sandmann lawsuit against Washington Post to continue," 28 Oct. 2019

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.

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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

12 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on gist

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gist

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gist

Spanish Central: Translation of gist

Nglish: Translation of gist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gist for Arabic Speakers

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