Gig (music)

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Jazz pioneer James Reese Europe.

Gig is slang for a live musical performance, a paid engagement of a musician or ensemble.[1]


Popularised by jazz musicians in the early 20th century, the origins of the term are uncertain.

Earlier incarnations of gig or gyge in English, meaning “something that spins or whirls” or “a state of boisterous merriment and fun” later found in whirligig, had been in use since the 13th century.[2] In turn perhaps influenced by the old French giguer and Italian gigue meaning dance, which also originated jig.[3][4]

The first documented use of the word in its musical context appears in the Melody Maker on 7th September 1926, with a story byline stating, "One Popular Gig Band Makes Use of a Nicely Printed Booklet."

Modern usage[edit]

Jimi Mbaye performing live

While retaining its original meaning wider adoption and use of the term can now refer to undertaking any type of performance, including in a technical or support role.

Gigging is also often used to refer to attending a performance. A gig can take place on a street or town square, at a bar, music venue or stadium. They can be formal or informal, a ticketed event or free festival.

More broadly the term gig means having paid work, being employed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gig". Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  2. ^ gig, pg.6 The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. 1989. Oxygen University Press. 6 Oct 2007
  3. ^ Gold, Robert. S (1964). A Jazz Lexicon (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Inc / Random House. p. 123. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  4. ^ Morris, Evan. "Gig". The Word Detective. Retrieved 28 October 2021.