Gist Is Not Spelled With A J, Folks

Gist Is Not Spelled With A J, Folks

The gist is simple: gist is spelled with a G, not a J. It’s one of a handful of English words which begin with a soft G sound and are spelled that way. Gin, anyone?

Picture: Getty Images/Rob Kim

It actually would never have occurred to me that this might be a common mistake, but regular Mind Your Language contributor KiloOscarZulu pointed out that it has happened more than once on our very own sister site Gizmodo. Evidently people who have heard the word but never seen it written down assume it begins with a J. This assumption is incorrect.

The typical pattern for English is for an initial G to be a “hard G” (golly gosh, Gizmodo!), but there are a number of exceptions: gin, giant, gel, gym. Most of those occur when the following sound can be represented by an -e or an -i, but it’s not an absolute rule and you’ll just have to learn the exceptions. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


  • What I don’t get is, don’t the writers use a spell checker? Most programs auto-spell check now days. It’s not like getting there/their/they’re mixed up because they are all valid words. Jist isn’t even a proper word and will flag a spell checker – it’s even highlighted here in the comments as I write this.

  • Using G to represent a J sound seems to have been particularly rife in the 19th century, as evidenced in some Australian place names (viz. Geelong [jə’lʌŋ] vs. Gippsland [‘gɪpslænd]).

  • There’s more than a handful of words that start with a G and are pronounced with a soft ‘G’ sound. Gyroscope, Germany, Giraffe, Gerbil, Ginger, Gem, General, Germ, Gentle…

    The list gets even longer when you start looking at words that have a soft ‘G’ sound in the middle of a word.

  • The gist is simple: gist is spelled with a G, not a J.
    Should be

    The gist is simple: Gist is spelled with a G, not a J.

    Accuracy matters.

  • And then you have the people that read a lot and think it’s pronounced with a G sound. Oops.

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