Meanings: “Gist”

April 14, 2016

On River View Friend I recently posted something I titled The Gist of Quakerism.  The word “gist” came quickly to mind as the word I wanted to comment on Chuck Fager’s two paragraph summary of Quakerism, but after I finished writing it I found myself wondering about the origin of the word “gist.”

Here’s what etymology.com has to say:

gist (n.) Look up gist at Dictionary.com1711, “the real point” (of a law case, etc.), from Anglo-French legalese phrases such as cest action gist “this action lies,” from Old French gist en “it consists in, it lies in,” from gist (Modern French gît), third person singular present indicative of gésir “to lie,” from Latin iacet “it lies,” from iacere “to lie, rest,” related to iacere “to throw” (see jet (v.)). Extended sense of “essence” first recorded 1823.

So the word has French origins. The gist of something is where it fundamentally lies; its foundation.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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