Meaning of the word ‘Gise’

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    Robert Legge

    Would anyone know the meaning of the word “gise” as used in William Sutherland’s The ship-builders’ assistant, [or some essays] towards compleating the art of marine architecture, London 1711, page 42:
    “It has been observable in laying Floors in Houses, or great Fabrics, that ’tis good Ma-
    nagement to divide the Floors into Girders and Gise; that in case a Floor was proposed to be laid of 4 Inches thick, being divided into Gise of double Thickness, and to lie at quadruple
    Distance, the Strength would be equal, and but half the Stuff used ; and one Girder of 16 Inches square would be almost equal in Strength to 17 Gise of 8 Inches broad and 4 Inches thick;
    which Girder contains but half the Stuff of the 17 Gise. But however this is in House Work, where, the Case is, quite different, from the extraordinary Strain, and other Circumstances,
    which ought to be throughly weighed in joining and uniting the Parts of a Ship.”

    Tony Beales

    ‘Gise’ is the obsolete plural form of joist. Source: Mariner’s Mirror 9(4)123, April 1926, in answer to the same question (13) in 1921.

    Frank Scott

    The On-line Oxford English Dictionary (OED) shows ‘Gese’ as a verb that refers to to the grazing of cattle – obviously no connection with your quotation. However, chasing a few other lines it does seem possible that it is a another variant spelling for ‘joist’. From the OED:
    JOIST, noun (1): Forms: . 4 gieste, 4-6 gyste, geste, gyest, 5-6 giste, (5 gyyst), 6 geist, gyst, 6-7 geast (e, 7 geest) 7-8 gise (pl. gises, gise, 7 jyce). 5-6 iest(e, 6- 7 ieast, 7 Sc. jest, jeist. . 5-6 ioyste, 6-7 ioyst, 7 ioist, 7-8 joyst, 7- joist. . 6 ioyse (ioysse), 6-7 ioise, ioyce, 7 ioice (iuice), joyse, 7-8 joyce (pl. joyces, joyce), 8 joice. [ME. giste, gyste, a. OF. giste, one of the beams supporting a bridge, in mod.F. gîte one of the small beams supporting a platform for artillery, a bed of mineral, etc., f. OF. gesir (mod.F. gésir):L. jacre to lie.

    The later form joist has parallels in HOISE, HOIST, FOIST n.3, and JOIST n.2 These developments of ‘oi’ from ‘i’ are of earlier date than the interchange of (a) and () in boil, bile, etc., and their phonetic history is as yet obscure.

    1. One of the timbers on which the boards of a floor or the laths of a ceiling are nailed, and which themselves stand on edge parallel to each other stretching horizontally from wall to wall, or resting on supporting beams or girders; also, A timber which similarly supports the floor of a platform, a bridge, or other structure.
    In a large floor the main joists (binding joists) are sometimes more widely apart, and are crossed by smaller bridging joists which bear the boards of the floor; in such a case there may be light joists beneath to bear the laths (ceiling joists).


    I had not seen this term before, but ran it past someone very knowledgeable about old shipbuilding terms, David Antscherl, author of The Fully Framed Ship Model: HMN Swan Class Sloops 1767-1780, 2 volumes, Seawatch Books, Florence, (Oregon) 2009. Although unfamiliar to him, given the context, he suggested that ‘gize’ in the passage from Sutherland might be an old form of “joist”. This was was confirmed by the Oxford English Dictionary‘s listing of obsolete forms of the word. …gist, gys, gise, jyce, ioyst. Middle English gyste. Ultimately related to Latin jacere = to lie, French gésir = to lie. It probably was pronounced ‘jyce’ or ‘jyze’ with a soft ‘g’.

    Frank Scott

    Mea Maxima Culpa, a typo crept into my response. The first line should read:
    ‘The On-line Oxford English Dictionary (OED) shows ‘Gise’ as a verb… ‘
    Somehow I typed in ‘Gese’ rather than ‘Gise’ – cognitive dissonance is my excuse. Massive apologies.

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