Gig carts are constructed with the driver's seat sitting higher than the level of the shafts. Traditionally, a gig is more formal than a village cart or a meadowbrook cart, and more comfortable, usually being sprung. A light gig can be used for carriage racing. OED gives the date of first known reference to a horse-drawn gig as 1791, and they were ubiquitous by the early 1800s. There are several types of gig, including:
- calesín: small, one-horse, hooded, a seat behind for the driver, used in the Philippines; diminutive of Spanish calesa
- stanhope: typically having a high seat and closed back; named after Fitzroy Stanhope, a British clergyman who died in 1864.
- stick gig: lightweight, two-wheeled, for one person
- Tilbury (carriage), lightweight, two-wheeled,
- whiskey or whisky: small body that resembles a chair, suspended on leather braces attached to springs
Gigs travelling at night would normally carry two oil lamps with thick glass, known as gig-lamps. This caused the formerly common slang word "giglamps" for "spectacles".
The meaning of the term 'gig' is transferred from the deprecatory term for a 'flighty girl' and subsequently indicates anything which whirls, or is dangerous or unpredictable. Contemporary literature frequently recounted romantic tales of spills and hairbreadth scrapes from these vehicles, but is equally fulsome on the fearful thrill experienced in driving them.
- Felton, W. (1796). A Treatise on Carriages: Comprehending Coaches, Chariots, Phaetons, Curricles, Gigs, Whiskies... Together with Their Proper Harness. In which the Fair Prices of Every Article are Accurately Stated (Vol. 2). Debrett.
- Loudon, I. (2001). Doctors and their transport, 1750–1914. Medical history, 45(02), 185-206.
- CANTLE, G. S. (1978). The Steel Spring Suspensions of Horse-Drawn Carriages (circa 1760 to 1900). Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 50(1), 25-36.
- Byrne, A. (2015). " Very Knowing Gigs": Social Aspiration and the Gig Carriage in Jane Austen's Works. Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, 37, 198.
- Newlin, A. (1940). An Exhibition of Carriage Designs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 35(10), 186-191.
- Nockolds, H. (Ed.). (1977). The Coachmakers: A History of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers, 1677-1977. JA Allen, Limited.
- McCausland, H. (2013). The English Carriage. Read Books Ltd.
- For descriptions and definitions see: Berkebile, D. H. (2014). Carriage terminology: an historical dictionary. Smithsonian Institution.
- Oxford University Press (2000). The Oxford English dictionary online. Oxford University Press, Oxford
- Bradney, J. (2005). The carriage-drive in Humphry Repton's landscapes. Garden History, 31-46.
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- Gigs, Cabriolets and Curricles. Jane Austen Centre Bath UK England.