Where does the word 'gig' come from?

The Taylor review into working practices is published today. But why do we call it the 'gig' economy?

by John Morrish
Last Updated: 11 Jul 2017

You've heard of the 'gig economy', but what is a gig? Well, it's a spinning top, a two-wheeled horse carriage and a type of fishing hook. Mainly, though, it is a casual job for a musician, particularly a 'one-night stand'.

The word was first used in the 1920s, by jazz and dance-band players, but nobody knows its derivation: perhaps it comes from 'engagement'. In America, 'gig' has long been applied to any short-term job; we've only picked up that usage recently. Life as a gigging musician can be rewarding, but more often it is perilous. Now we can all try it.


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