What Makes a Gift, a Gift?

Picasso is noted as having said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” But what does that mean? And what exactly is a gift? Or, rather, what is it that makes a gift a gift? Because not every thing given is a gift, nor is everything received. One thing, however, is certain: that gifts are very, very special.

So, What Exactly is a Gift?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a gift as, “a thing given willingly to someone without payment.” The secondary definition reads, “a natural ability or talent.” These are two completely different ideas; one being a tangible that is given away, the other being an innate talent an individual is born with. How can these two seemingly contradictory ideas both fall under the idea of a gift? Are they both truly gifts? Where did the word gift come from? Has it changed over time, and what does it mean today?


The word gift originated in the Old Norse languages. At the time of its inception, it was pronounced gipt. Over time, this term merged with the English word “give,” creating the new Middle English term, gift. Technically it is a noun, although some people have used the word as a verb or modified its use to describe an action (eg, to “gift” something). So, it has been established that a gift is a thing. But what kind of thing?

Examining Purpose

Perhaps, when considering the role of gifts in our lives, it is best to consider the purpose of a gift. Many would argue that the purpose of a gift is to bring joy, or happiness, into the lives of others. Gifts are often used to uplift those in times of sadness, or loss; they are used to express love, care & concern. Gifts are also used to enhance the lives of those around us. Life itself is even often referred to as a gift.

So, How Does One Choose a Gift?

Gift-giving is, truly, an art. Some of you may be thinking you’re horrible at selecting gifts. Others of you may be thinking you are the world’s best gift-giver. Regardless of merit or past experience, everyone is capable of giving a great gift. The key to giving a great gift is focusing on the needs of the receiver.

Questions for Consideration

So then, how do you identify the needs of the person you are buying a gift for? What questions are useful to consider?

First, you should ask yourself what the purpose of your gift is. Are you trying to uplift someone who has experienced a life-changing loss? Are you celebrating the life of someone you love and trying to find the perfect birthday gift? Has your oldest son just graduated from high school? What are his needs moving forward?

Finding someone you love something they will need, or enjoy, or treasure in the years to come, isn’t hard if you maintain focus on their needs and interests rather than your own.

The Power & Potential of a Gift

What makes a gift a gift is, well, YOU. You are the one who has decided that the person you care about is worthy of recognition. You are the person that will spend all the time, forethought, and energy into finding the perfect present to present to your loved one. And, ultimately, you are the one whose heart will swell when you see how much joy you have brought your special person. Giving a gift is a gift in itself, as the best gift you can possibly give is the love you give, and the gift of yourself.

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Cado is a community dedicated to the art of gift-giving. Our goals is to make life better through gifts of all kinds. We empower our audience to learn about the history of gifts, give them knowledge around gift-giving etiquette, and inspire them with ideas on how to give.