Difference between Gift and Present

Key Difference: Gift and Present are two terms that are often confused. The term ‘present’ has many various definitions, whereas ‘gift’ generally has one. Gift also has a more formal and grander implication than ‘present’.

Whenever one is invited to a birthday or anniversary, it is generally an accepted practice to walk in with a gift or a present. Now both terms are used frequently, and are often used interchangeably. However, there is a sight difference between the two terms, i.e. gift and present.

In the most common context, the two words generally mean the same thing. However, as this is the English language, things are never that easy. Hence, it should be noted that each of these words have a different connotation. The first difference is the fact that the term ‘present’ has many different meanings, whereas gift generally has one implication.

Let’s look at each of their definitions, in order to understand the situations in which the terms can be used. Firstly, the term ‘present’ is much more complex as it tends to have many different definitions. According to Oxford Dictionaries, ‘present’ has the following definitions:

  • In a particular place. - ‘a doctor must be present at the ringside’

  • Existing or occurring now. - ‘she did not expect to find herself in her present situation’

  • The period of time now occurring. - ‘they are happy and at peace, refusing to think beyond the present’

  • Give or award formally or ceremonially. - ‘a local celebrity will present the prizes’

  • Formally introduce (someone) to someone else. - ‘may I present my wife?’

  • A thing given to someone as a gift. - ‘a Christmas present’

The term ‘present’ comes from an old French phrase, ‘mettre une chose en present à quelqu'un’ which basically translates to ‘put a thing into the presence of a person’. Hence, every definition associated with the word present can be traced back to this original definition of bringing something to a person, i.e. presenting them with something.

A gift, on the other hand, is fairly simpler. It has only one prominent definition and that is as “a thing given willingly to someone without payment;” basically, something like a present. Another definition of ‘gift does exist, but is irrelevant here. It serves as an acronym for Gamete intrafallopian transfer, a medical techniques used in artificial insemination.

In addition to this, even when speaking it regard to their common definition, there is a difference in the context of the terms. The term ‘gift’ generally has a more formal implication than ‘present’. This is primarily because in addition to referring to something gotten or given on a birthday, it refers to natural ability, or even a miracle. For example: the gift of gab, a gifted mathematician, and even the gift of life. As these are more abstract concepts rather something tangible and are so much grander in scale, the term ‘gift’ tends to take on a bit more grander implication, then the humble ‘present,’ which often gets delegated to refer to the simpler or material gifts.

Comparison between Gift and Present:

 

Gift

Present

Definition

A thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.

In a particular place.

Existing or occurring now.

The period of time now occurring.

Give or award formally or ceremonially.

Formally introduce (someone) to someone else.

A thing given to someone as a gift.

Etymology

Middle English: from Old Norse gipt; related to give.

Middle English: from Old French, originally in the phrase mettre une chose en present à quelqu'un ‘put a thing into the presence of a person’.

Connotation

Can be practical or abstract, i.e. a birthday gift or the gift of life

Typically practical, i.e. a birthday present or a Christmas present

Usage

More formal

Informal

Examples

These baskets are gifts for the visitors.

He has a gift for drawing.

She has the gift of gab.

I really like your birthday gift.

The hero had the gift of telepathy.

She thinks only of the present, not of the future.

The minister presented them with medals.

He presented the defender is court.

She got him the most beautiful Christmas present.

I got you a present.

Reference: Oxford Dictionaries (Gift and Present), Mental Floss, Dictionary.com
Image Courtesy: snydle.com, shemazing.net

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