Inventor of the GIF image format tells us how ‘GIF’ is properly pronounced


During the 17th annual Webby Awards, Steve Wilhite received the Lifetime Achievement award. He deserves it too, since he’s the guy that brought us the Graphics Interchange Format. Or the GIF, as everyone calls it today. GIFs have a very special place on the internet — you can’t go through many comment sections without seeing at least one of them, and Google even added the ability to search for them. I think we can all agree that GIFs are awesome.

But one thing it seems people can never agree on is its pronounciation. Is it Jif? Or the way it’s spelled, Gif? Steve made sure to set everything straight when he accepted his award:

Personally, I’ve always pronounced it that way. But I know that pronounce it the other way. How do you pronounce GIF? Let us know in the comments!

[via The Verge]

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  • davidroper

    DOS 5.1 reminds me of WIN 7. A nice working OS with only a few bugs that don’t bother me. PK, Phil Katz, was one rich guy then. If you didn’t PKZIP, you were not a geek at all.

  • AT

    [@davidroper] I went into the PC later than you did. DOS 5.1. I was using PKzip by then. I do miss telling people I was able to get 625k free memory without using third party memory managers like 386MAX. And then showing them.

  • davidroper


    AT, when I was younger I used to be able to write ZIP programs using “Copy Con PGM.ZIP”

    I loved to tell that one.

  • AT

    [@davidroper] No problem. No worries. I’m just glad I didn’t have to go into GIF’s LZW encoding/patent dispute/workarounds leading to the birth of PNG. LOL


    xor ax, ax
    mov ah, 4Ch
    int 21h

  • davidroper


    AT, I’m sorry I am sorry that I drew you into my “illness”. I knew about the extensions and you are 100% correct in everything you wrote. Thanks on behald of others who may not have known that fundamental tidbit.

    Can something be both fundamental and a tidbit at the same time? Anyway…

    I was there in 1986 with the extensions and DOS 1.0 (it was up to 2.0 when I started). I think I was at 3.0 and 3.11 when I worked with my first AT, AT.

    I apologize to you. I just like to shoot off my mouth and my family even calls me “One Step” because I always go one step past where I should go verbally. See, I did it again in the previous pararaph with “AT”. Darn.

    Don’t hate me. I’ll try to temper myself.

  • AT

    [@davidroper] During the early days of the PC, the standard file convention used a 3 character extension. That’s why JPEG became JPG. Same with TIF (originally TIFF), MPG (MPEG)….

    Everything had to be shortened. Shortened extensions also became a bit irregular as JPE (JPEG) and MPE (MPEG) files were used.

  • davidroper

    [@Seamus McSeamus]
    Seamus, I have an entire DOC on my desktop devoted to misuse like that. There is at the top of the list. I just added Frustrated, Flustered, and Flustrated to my DOC this morning.

  • davidroper

    Right you are. And we are so lazy, we use JPG instead of JPEG. It’s Joint Photographic Experts Group. why not use JPEG? Good thought of yours, etim.

  • Seamus McSeamus


    What bugs me more than the possible mispronunciation of .GIF or .JPG is the total misuse (yes, even abuse) of the word “there”. It is meant to convey a very narrow information stream, yet some people today expect it to do the work of “their” and “they’re” as well. It’s a crime, I tells ‘ya, a crime!

  • etim

    I guess it’s like “those people” (you know who you are) who say “Jay Peg” instead of the right, proper and holy “Jay Pee Gee”.

  • davidroper

    The man “what invented it” gets to decide its name. Not us mere mortals. Your argument is not valid due TO MY DADDY always saying to me that if a man spells his name SMYTH then he, and only he, alone can decide whether it’s pronounced Sm i TH or Sm eye Th.

    Argument over. It’s really pronounced “Peanut Butter.”

  • RealBull

    It is hard to determine the correct pronunciation. “gi” in the English language is actually pronounced as “ji”, for example, giraffe and giant. But GIF is an acronym, the “gi” pronunciation may as well be correct. Anyway go to Merriam-Webster Dictionary and GIF is first pronounced with the “gi” and next with the “ji”. Click on the pronunciation demo and you get the “gi” pronunciation.

    Cambridge Dictionary only pronounces it as “gi”

    Oxford Dictionary pronounces it as “gi”

    I have always and will continue to say “GIF” and NOT “JIF”.

  • Druid

    Good to know

  • davidroper

    Jesus, man, they say “Hay-soose”.

  • Mukhi

    well, no matter what the inventor says, the local pronunciation is all that matters. british says, “anti-” as “an-tee”, american says, as “an-tie”, both are acceptable. in US, i have known “GIF” for the 1st time, and as “GIF”, not as “JIF”; therefore, don’t expect me to pronounce the other way!
    mexicans pronounce jesus as “he-soos”, for them, it’s right.

  • davidroper


  • BR


    But WHY?

  • Enrique

    [@davidroper] It was worth it, don’t worry :p

  • davidroper

    Man to a friend “Last year I went to Mexico”
    Friend say” It’s not pronounced that way, it’s pronounced Meh-hee-coh”
    Friend says “How did you get there?”
    Man says “Okay, I drove in a Taa-hee cab”

    Hard to write, easy to tell.

  • KMHamm

    I don’t get it. How could the guy who invented it pronounce it incorrectly…?

  • etim

    So…does that mean Germanic/Scandinavian speakers pronounce it YIF?

    I had a non-English speaking German friend who owned a Yeep.
    I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about until I saw her drive by in her Jeep Wrangler.

  • davidroper

    JIF like in Peanut Butter. Cporrectly. Surf is a different matter.,,er, Cerf

  • etim

    The vid maker shoulda made a GIF instead of wasting ~45 sec. just to watch him walk to the stage and another 15 to get going!