I understand that it roughly means a fighter/mage, as per this question: How to optimize a Gishy [Fighter/Mage] Character?

But I just wanted to know more about how the term came about. It's so hard to keep up with the kids these days, learning the lingo helps.

Is it related to Githzerai in DnD? A good answer would include the root words, and a few examples from RPG forums with context (if they exist; I could only find this).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Should this question be generalized to "What is the etymology of the term 'gish'?" (The noun form, much more common than turning it into an adjective with -y.) Or should we keep it as-is because that was the actual original question? \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Dec 17 '13 at 20:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexP sounds good to me \$\endgroup\$ – Zachary Yates Dec 17 '13 at 23:20

The githyanki have been a fixture in Dungeons & Dragons ever since they showed up in the original Fiend Folio in 1981. (Look! Right there on the cover!)

Like drow, githyanki had mixed parties of different characters, featuring both front-line warriors and support casters. One of the specialized githyanki types was the gish, who was essentially a multi-class spellcaster (fighter/mage or thief/mage; githyanki do not have clerics).

Over time, D&D fans picked up the term and started using it to refer to fighter/mage characters in general, especially if they actually fight in melee.


In the githyanki language, apostrophes (which are not pronounced) separate different morphemes which have been combined into a single word. For example, gish'sarath combines the word gish, or "skilled," with sarath, or "sergeant." Githyanki who have trained with great heroes add the prefix gi' ("student of") to their trainer's name.

Githyanki, from Wikipedia

Also from the very same source:

The githyanki captain, the gish githyanki, and the githyanki soldier appeared in Monster Manual IV (2006).


The gith races are truly efficient warriors in that they combine all disciplines in their tactics; it is probably the case that the only race to even approach this multi-disciplinary approach to combat is humanity itself. The githyanki, arguably the most aggressive of the gith races, combine magic, psionics and swordplay in a single, terrifying wave of assault. The most significant example of this can be found in the gish, students of both the magic word and the magic sword.

planewalker.com: the gish (2005)

Planewalker.com is/was/has been a semi-official website - meaning: "while WotC isn't working with the setting we have the nod to go ahead in development" (from their FAQ) - dedicated to the Planescape setting, and it was established in 1999 by Brannon Hollingsworth, according to their FAQ. Their info seems pretty reliable, though I'm not entirely sure about its current validity. The material on the "gish" seems solid, though.

All emphases mine.


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