Confirmed: Here’s What GIF Stands for and How to Pronounce It

Everyone uses them, and most people have a very firm opinion on how to pronounce the acronym.

phone womanPH888/Shutterstock

What is a GIF?

At it’s most basic level, a GIF is simply an image file. You’re most likely familiar with animated GIFs, which are a series of still GIF images strung together to create a soundless short looping graphic that often looks like a video. The way it’s created means that, unlike videos, the file size is small and easily sharable via text, email, social media, etc. GIFs were originally created by American computer scientist Steve Wilhite in 1987 as a way to compress images for purposes of file downloading, animation, and simple graphics on the slow, low bandwidth dial-up Internet connections of the day. GIFs are now primarily used to send hyperbolic reactions on social media. Something you might react to with a shocked GIF? The correct way to pronounce these famous company names you’re actually pronouncing all wrong.

What does GIF stand for?

Did you know that “GIF” is actually an acronym? There has been some debate surrounding the question, what does GIF stands for, but creator Wilhite confirmed that GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. The name was chosen by Wilhite and his team specifically so they could call it a GIF. Wilhite has been very adamant that he is upset people are mispronouncing the acronym. This leads us to our next question: how do you actually pronounce GIF? It can’t be as hard to pronounce as these 55 words even smart people mispronounce, can it?

How to pronounce GIF

There are two schools of thought on how to pronounce GIF. Most people take the hard “g” sound (like in the word guess) from the word graphics, in Graphics Interchange Format, and pronounce the word /ɡɪf/.

A smaller group of people, use a soft “g” (like in the word gibberish) because grammatically, a “g” followed by the vowel “i” tends to be pronounced with a soft “g.” This leads to GIF being pronounced Jif, like the peanut butter brand. In fact, this was what creator Steve Wilhite had in mind when he named it, and he has since come forward and confirmed that this was how he intended GIF to be pronounced.

Despite this edict from above, people still partake in animated debates about the pronunciation. Both Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary have both pronunciations listed, so no matter how you say it, you’re technically correct. If you thought pronouncing GIF was hard, you’ll be stumped by 14 of the hardest words to pronounce in the English language.

Popular Videos

Isabel Roy has been a writer and editor for RD.com since February of 2019. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing and Rhetoric. She is thrilled to be living and working in the Big Apple although she misses the easy access to freshly made Wisconsin cheese curds and Kopps Custard. When not at the Reader’s Digest office, you can find her downing too many chai lattes and rereading her favorite Harry Potter books.