"Gig" (early cites) (was Re: "Axe" for 'guitar'?)

Gregory {Greg} Downing gd2 at IS2.NYU.EDU
Fri Apr 21 16:49:46 UTC 2000

At 12:34 PM 4/21/2000, Beverly Olson Flanigan wrote:
>Funny that you should mention 'gig': a colleague of mine asked me just
>yesterday where that word came from.  We checked the OED but found nothing
>seemingly related (unless 'gig'=fun or silliness, hence, presumably,
>'giggle'? Interesting that it originally referred to girls'
>silliness...).  Musicians?

Here are the 1920's amnd 30's cites from OED*2*, gig n6:

gig, n.6  colloq.
[Origin unknown.]
An engagement for a musician or musicians playing jazz, dance-music, etc.;
spec. a `one-night stand'; also, the place of such a performance. Also
transf. and attrib. Hence
`gigster, one who does `gigs'.
1926 Melody Maker Sept. 7 One popular `gig' band makes use of a nicely
printed booklet.
1927 Ibid. May 457/3 This seven-piece combination does many `gigs' in S.E.
London, but is hoping to secure a resident engagement at Leamington in the
near future.
1934 S. R. Nelson All about Jazz vi. 113 Jack runs numerous bands which play
`gig' work---i.e. private engagements or public work. In his office, he has
a file in which some hundreds of `gig' musicians are listed.
1939 Melody Maker 9 Sept., When King George died there was terrible
confusion, especially among gigsters, as to whether they should fulfil their
gigs or not.


Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing at nyu.edu or gd2 at is2.nyu.edu

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