gist is our minimalist upper ontology. It is designed to have the maximum coverage of typical business ontology concepts with the fewest number of primitives and the least amount of ambiguity. Our gist ontology is free (as in free speech and free beer--it is covered under the Creative Commons 3.0 attribution share-alike license). You can use as you see fit for any purpose, just give us attribution.

Ongoing development of gist is open to the public at the gist GitHub repository.

Latest Version

Version 11.0.0 of gist was released in April 2022. It is now available for download from the button above.

Major changes in version 11.0.0 include (but are not limited to):

  1. Time – An easier and more intuitive model for time that employs datatype properties rather than objects representing time instants.
  2. Governments & geographical regions – A new model that implements the subtle but important distinction between governments and governed geographical regions.

Please refer to the Release Notes for more details on all the changes included in gist v11.0.0.

Migration: To facilitate migration to the latest version of gist, the release package contains migration scripts, along with instructions for implementing the new time model.


With the latest release, we now offer more extensive narrative and graphical documentation available for download here. This GitHub repository contains an eBook, visualizations, and WIDOCO documentation. This link will take you directly to the WIDOCO documentation.

We have been working on a “best practice” style guide for our ontology projects. We have updated gist to be conformant with our recommendations and this resulted in many terms being renamed without any change in their meaning. We’ve also made a number of other changes as we continue to refine our vision for a minimalist enterprise upper ontology.

gist the minimalist upper ontology by Semantic Arts, Inc. is licensed under creative commons, which only requires that you attribute the source ( when you use it. Any concepts used from gist are to remain in the gist namespace (i.e., gist:Organization where gist: = ).

  • Gist has a small number of top level concepts from which everything else derives. And these concepts are not philosophical abstractions like endurants and perdurants, or qualia, they are normal terms whose definitions are quite close to what you already believe.
  • Gist has extensive and fine grained disjointness at the highest level. It turns out that in order for an upper ontology to help you avoid making logical errors in your derived enterprise or application ontology, it needs to make use of disjointness.  Without disjointness, the reasoner does not find logic errors.

If you'd like to use the files locally, download a zipped archive which contains the modules of gist as well as documentation for the ontology.

You can also import these files directly into your ontology editor of choice (Protegé, Topbraid, etc.).
View the complete release notes

Open gist in Protege:

  1. Open Protégé
  2. Click File > Open from URL (if it asks, “Do you want to open the ontology in the current window?” Click No).
  3. Enter URI:


Import gist into your Ontology:

  1. Open Protégé
  2. Go to “Active Ontology” / “Ontology Imports”
  3. Click the + next to “Direct Imports”
  4. Choose, “Import an ontology contained in a document located on the web”
  5. Enter URI:


gist Council

We have an active governance and best practices community around gist, called the gist Council.

The council meets virtually on the first Thursday of every month. Practitioners and users of gist come together to discuss how to use gist and make suggestions on its evolution.

If you would like to be involved, enter your email and a description of your use of or interest in gist in the box to the right. Someone will be in touch soon.