See also: Gig


A six-oared pilot gig (Etymology 1, sense 5) at St Mary's, Isles of Scilly


  • enPR: gĭg, IPA(key): /ɡɪɡ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪɡ

Etymology 1Edit

Of uncertain origin. According to one theory, from Middle English gige (fiddle) and Middle English *gygge (found in Middle English whyrlegygge (a top, whirligig, a rotating device)), akin to Old Norse gígja (fiddle) and German Geige (violin). The earliest usage of the word gig in the sense of “any, usual temporary, paid job” found by linguist Geoffrey Nunberg is from a 1952 piece by Jack Kerouac about his gig as a part-time brakeman for the Southern Pacific railroad.[1]


gig (plural gigs)

  1. (informal, music) A performing engagement by a musical group; or, generally, any job or role, especially for a musician or performer.
    I caught one of the Rolling Stones' first gigs in Richmond.
    Hey, when are we gonna get that hotel gig again?
    • 2015, RZ Aklat, Become a Freelance Translator:
      Whether you want to have some occasional translation gigs or turn freelance translating into your fulltime occupation, you'll need to know some essential things []
  2. (informal, by extension) Any job; especially one that is temporary; or alternately, one that is very desirable.
    I had this gig as a file clerk but it wasn't my style so I left.
    Hey, that guy's got a great gig over at the bike shop. He hardly works all day
  3. A forked spear for catching fish, frogs, or other small animals.
  4. (historical) A two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage.
    • 1868, The Family Herald
      Years ago the cravers for sensation were delighted with the real gig and horse with the aid of which Mr. Thurtell murdered Mr. Weare.
    • 1967, William Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Vintage 2004, page 77:
      the room grew stifling warm and vapor clung to the windowpanes, blurring the throng of people still milling outside the courthouse, a row of tethered gigs and buggies, distant pine trees in a scrawny, ragged grove.
  5. (Southern England, nautical) A six-oared sea rowing boat commonly found in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
  6. (nautical) An open boat used to transport the captain of a ship, the captain's gig.
    • 1979, Stan Rogers, The Flowers of Bermuda:
      The captain's gig still lies before ye whole and sound, / It shall carry all o' we.
  7. (US, military) A demerit received for some infraction of military dress or deportment codes.
    I received gigs for having buttons undone.

(fishing spear): leister



gig (third-person singular simple present gigs, present participle gigging, simple past and past participle gigged)

  1. To fish or catch with a gig, or fish spear.
    • 2011, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead:
      The chimps do a sort of frog-gigging number on them and pull them out like fondue.
  2. To engage in musical performances.
    The Stones were gigging around Richmond at the time
  3. To make fun of; to make a joke at someone's expense, often condescending.
    His older cousin was just gigging him about being in love with that girl from school.
  4. (US, military) To impose a demerit for an infraction of a dress or deportment code.
    His sergeant gigged him for an unmade bunk.

Derived termsEdit


  1. ^ Geoffrey Nunberg (January 11, 2016), “Goodbye Jobs, Hello 'Gigs': How One Word Sums Up A New Economic Reality”, in Fresh Air[1], NPR, retrieved January 24, 2020.

Etymology 2Edit

Clipping of giga-, as in gigabyte, gigaunit, etc.


gig (plural gig or gigs)

  1. (colloquial, computing) Clipped form of gigabyte.
    This picture is almost a gig; don't you wanna resize it?
    My new computer has over 500 gigs of hard drive space.
  2. (slang) Any unit having the SI prefix giga-

Etymology 3Edit

From Middle English gigge, from Old French gigues (a gay, lively girl), from Old Norse gikkr (a pert person), related to Danish gjæk (a fool; jester), Swedish gäck (a fool; jester; wag). More at geck.


gig (plural gigs)

  1. (obsolete) A playful or wanton girl; a giglot.

Etymology 4Edit

Probably from Latin gignere (to beget).


gig (third-person singular simple present gigs, present participle gigging, simple past and past participle gigged)

  1. To engender.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Dryden to this entry?)

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for gig in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)






  1. Soft mutation of cig (meat).


Welsh mutation
radical soft nasal aspirate
cig gig nghig chig
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.