Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Gist


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is gist. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Gist, which almost always appears in the phrase “the gist,” refers to the general or basic meaning of something written or said—in other words, its essence.

// I didn’t catch every word, but I heard enough to get the gist of the conversation.

GIST in Context

“Thanks to a student project at a Kirkland high school, Washington lawmakers are considering the impact of a ‘pink tax.’ The gist: Products for women often cost more than similar products designed for men. Senate Bill 5171 would allow the office of the state attorney general to review complaints and hand out fines to companies that demonstrate gender bias in their pricing.” — The Columbian (Vancouver, Washington), 21 Jan. 2023

Did You Know?

The main point, overarching theme, essence—that’s gist in a nutshell. The gist of gist, if you will. 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/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.

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