CHRISTMAS: Gift Vs. Present | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures CHRISTMAS: Gift Vs. Present | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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CHRISTMAS: Gift Vs. Present

Did you get gifts or presents for Christmas? Is there a difference?

Here’s the scoop, from

Language is not a linear: Words come into every language from a variety of sources, over many centuries. And their meanings change nor expand over time. Think of “decadent,” now used for “self-indulgent,” instead of its traditional meaning of being in a state of decline or decay.


The word “gift” had multiple meanings before arriving at its current common meaning: something given voluntarily without being earned, to show favor, honor an occasion, or provide assistance.

  • In Old English, its most dominant meaning was “payment for a wife,” or a dowry. The word derived from the Sanskrit gabhasti meaning “hand or forearm.”
  • What was a payment bestowed along with a woman’s hand in marriage evolved into the specific act of putting something of value in someone else’s hands. Around the 1300s, the word “gift” began to assume a more general meaning of an object freely given to another person.
  •   MarjorieManicke-sxc
    Is it a gift or a present? Photo by Marjorie Manicke | SXC.


    The noun “present” as a synonym for gift came onto the English language from Old Norman (Old French). Like the adjective “present,” it originally meant “being present” and was used in the phrase mettre en present, “to offer in the presence of.”

    By the early 1300s, the word became synonymous with the thing being offered. Another meaning of “present,” in sense of “the present time,” did not enter common use until the 1500s.

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