Please have a look on the dictionary definitions on the nouns "gist" and "purport" and let me know how they differ in meaning?

The gist:
The most important pieces of information about something, or general information without details.

The general meaning of someone's words or actions.

It strikes me as if they are interchangeable in most cases. Here I have tried to bring up two examples in which I think using either of then will not make any change in the whole meaning:

Example 1:

  • I don't remember his exact words, but I can tell the the ....... of his words.

Example 2:

  • I didn't read it all, but the ....... of the letter was that he won't return.

I think we can use these two interchangeably in either case above.

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    The verb crops up occasionally but the noun is not used much these days. If you do use it as a noun you should understand that it's about as pretentious as you can get without donning a powdered wig. Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 17:03
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    I'd say that noun sense of purport is all but obsolete. Just look at how far prevalence has dropped over the past couple of centuries! Also note that gist became more common over a century ago. The significance of using one or the other isn't about "meaning" - it's about prevalence changing over time. Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 17:15
  • Thank you very much @FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica; just could you please tell me what is the modern substitute for the obsolete "purport" these days?
    – A-friend
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 20:06
  • I don't understand. You mean something other than gist? We can certainly refer to the [broad] thrust of the argument. And there's always the substance of the argument. Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 11:40
  • Yes, definitely. I think there are so many other substitutes. But I am not quite sure which one is appropriate to be used instead of "gist"!
    – A-friend
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 11:43

1 Answer 1


Purport is considerably rarer than gist.

A gist is a brief summary. The purport is the meaning or sense of a document.

Sometimes these are interchangable, but I'd understand "purport" to involve more interpretation.

The gist of the letter was that your boss is getting on a plane tomorrow and he wants a meeting with you on Friday.

I'll give you the purport of the letter: your boss is really angry!

But purport is rare and perhaps obselete. "Purportedly" is sometimes seen in the wild, as a synonym of "allegedly"

  • Thank you very much @James K. Then I wonder what is the modern substitute for "purport" these days?
    – A-friend
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 5:45

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