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

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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