gist – a minimalist upper ontology

The gist logo

Ontology IRI:

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.

You can also contribute to gist by adding your comments to issue discussion threads and submitting new issues and pull requests. Minutes from our biweekly internal issue review sessions are posted on this wiki so you can find out what we've been discussing and get a preview of upcoming changes to gist.

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.


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.

Latest Release: gist 12.1.0

gist 12.1.0 contains a number of minor and patch updates. The most significant changes are:

  • Several classes and properties have been deprecated in anticipation of deletion in gist 13.0.0.
  • Annotations throughout the ontology have been improved, including definitions, scope notes, and examples.
  • Stub SKOS annotations have been added to achieve OWL 2 DL compliance.
  • A number of documentation and infrastructure improvements have been implemented.

See Release Notes for full details.

Latest Major Release: gist 12.0.0

gist 12 was released in July 2023 and includes a number of major changes. The most significant updates are:

  • The gist namespace and ontology IRIs have moved to the domain in order to provide long-term stability. The new IRIs are:


gistCore ontology IRI:

  • All inverse properties have been deleted to reduce complexity for both human users and automated systems.
  • The semantics of projects, tasks, and events have been updated to better model a continuum of states, including planned, scheduled, contemporary, and completed.

Please refer to the Release Notes for more details on all of the major, minor, and patch updates included in this version.

As a major release, gist 12 breaks backward compatibility, and migration scripts are provided to facilitate the adoption process. See the Major Version Migration section below.

The release package includes:

  • The gist core ontology
  • Supplementary ontologies of RDFS annotations and materialized subclass inferences to support a variety of applications and reasoners.
  • Documentation in both HTML and Markdown formats
  • Migration scripts to upgrade ontologies and instance data to gist 12.

All ontologies are provided in Turtle, RDF/XML, and JSON-LD serializations.

All previous versions of gist are available here.

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. 


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.

(Can't afford free? Purchase a perpetual license)

The gist Forum gathers every other month for discussion on best practices, development and adoption of gist.

Active and potential users are invited to join using the sign up below.

gist Forum

We maintain an active gist community forum where practitioners and users of gist come together to discuss the gist model, implementation best practices, and evolution.

Meetings occur virtually on the first Thursday of every other month, starting in January.

Please fill out the form here if you would like to become involved.