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  1. the main or essential part of a matter: What was the gist of his speech?
  2. the ground of a legal action.
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Origin of gist

1720–30; < Anglo-French (cest action) gist (this matter) lies, 3rd singular present indicative of Anglo-French, Old French gesir to lie ≪ Latin jacēre
Can be confusedgist jest just


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for gist


  1. the point or substance of an argument, speech, etc
  2. law the essential point of an action
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Word Origin

C18: from Anglo-French, as in cest action gist en this action consists in, literally: lies in, from Old French gésir to lie, from Latin jacēre, from jacere to throw
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for gist


1711, "the real point" (of a law case, etc.), from Anglo-French legalese phrases, e.g. cest action gist "this action lies," meaning "this case is sustainable by law," from Old French gist en "it consists in, it lies in" (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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper