the main or essential part of a matter: What was the gist of his speech?
the ground of a legal action.

1720–30; < Anglo-French (cest action) gist (this matter) lies, 3rd singular present indicative of Anglo-French, Old French gesir to lie ≪ Latin jacēre

gist, jest, just.

1. essence, point, substance, burden, kernel, import. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
gist (dʒɪst)
1.  the point or substance of an argument, speech, etc
2.  law the essential point of an action
[C18: from Anglo-French, as in cest action gist en this action consists in, literally: lies in, from Old French gésir to lie, from Latin jacēre, from jacere to throw]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1711, "the real point" (of a law case, etc.), from Anglo-Fr. legalese phrases, especially cest action gist "this action lies," meaning "this case is sustainable by law," from O.Fr. gist en "it consists in, it lies in" (third pers. sing. pres. indicative of gésir "to lie"), from L. jacet "it lies."
Extended sense of "essence" first recorded 1823.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Perhaps you might give us the gist of this cautionary tale.
This is the gist of the poem as it appears in almost all editions.
The gist of the message was that I should get an auction timer and save myself
  a lot of time and trouble.
But he knows from bitter experience that the gist of it is no.
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