gist is Semantic Arts’ minimalist upper ontology for the enterprise. It is designed to provide the maximum coverage of typical business 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 distributed under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-ShareAlike license. You can use it as you see fit for any purpose, as long as you give us attribution.

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

We welcome contributions in the form of comments on issue discussion threads and submission of issues and pull requests. Guidelines for the latter are found in the docs section of the repository. New issues and pull requests are reviewed by the Semantic Arts ontology team twice a month. 

To use the files locally, download a zipped archive containing gist as well as documentation. You can import these files directly into your ontology editor of choice: Protégé, Topbraid, etc.

Design Features

Significant design features of gist include, but are not limited to:

gist defines a small number of top-level concepts on which everything else is based, both in gist itself and in enterprise or application ontologies that use gist as a foundation. These concepts are not philosophical abstractions with unfamiliar terms such as endurant, perdurant, or qualia; they are everyday concepts with ordinary names such as person, organization and agreement, whose meanings are just what you would expect. These high-level concepts provide building blocks for defining more specific domain concepts in a gist-based ontology.

gist has extensive and fine-grained disjointness at the highest level in order to help you avoid making certain types of logical errors in your ontologies or data that are based on gist. By explicitly stating, for example, that governmental organizations (such as the US federal government) can’t be intergovernmental organizations (such as the UN), a reasoner will complain of logical inconsistency if something has been typed as both. Without disjointness, such inconsistencies will not be surfaced. 

gist uses domain and range specifications sparingly in order to make properties more broadly applicable. Subclasses are typically defined using a pattern that specifies the sense in which it specializes its superclass.

Latest Version

Version 11.1.0 of gist was released in October 2022. It is now available for download.

The release package includes:

  • gist ontologies serialized in Turtle, RDF/XML, and JSON-LD
  • Documentation in both Markdown and HTML formats
  • RDFS annotations that can be imported for applications that are dependent on them (gist itself uses SKOS annotations). 

As a minor upgrade, all changes in this version are backward compatible, so it is possible to upgrade without making any changes to your gist-based domain ontologies or data. Terms slated for eventual removal or replacement are deprecated in minor versions, so that you can continue using them until the next major upgrade by importing the accompanying deprecation ontology. Please refer to the Release Notes for more details on the updates included in this version. 

If you have not yet upgraded to version 11.0.0, see the Migration section below.

See All Previous Versions here.

Last Major Release: 11.0.0

The last major version, 11.0.0, included the following major changes:

  1. Time – A simpler 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.
  3. We have been developing a best practice style guide for our ontology projects, and have updated gist to be conformant with our recommendations, resulting in the renaming of many terms without any change in meaning. We’ve also made several other changes as we continue to refine our vision for a minimalist enterprise upper ontology.

Major Version Migration

Major versions are not backward compatible. To facilitate migration of both your gist-based ontologies and data to the latest major version of gist, the release package contains migration scripts and instructions, along with instructions for implementing the new time model. If you are currently using gist 9.x or earlier, you must apply the migration scripts in sequence - e.g., first 10.x and then 11.x. 


We offer extensive narrative and graphical documentation for download from the gist-doc GitHub repository. This repository contains an eBook, visualizations, and WIDOCO documentation. You can also view the WIDOCO documentation directly online.

gist is distributed under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-ShareAlike license, which only requires that you attribute the source ( when you use it. In addition, we require that any gist concepts remain in the gist namespace (, and that you not define your own terms within the gist namespace.

December gist Council: gist/BFO Comparison - Dylan Abney

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.