It’s the thought that counts. (The language of giving and receiving gifts)

by Kate Woodford

karandaev/iStock/Getty Images Plus
karandaev/iStock/Getty Images Plus

With the holiday season fast approaching, many of you will be braving the crowds in shops and shopping malls in order to find the perfect gift for a family member or friend. With presents very much on our mind, we thought it might be interesting to look at the language of gifts and giving.

For people that you know well, you will probably want to give a gift that is thoughtful and personal. If you can’t find what you are looking for in the shops, you might decide against a store-bought present and instead give a homemade gift. Or you might choose a gift token (or gift voucher), allowing the family member or friend to choose what they want for themselves, though you may think this approach lacks the personal touch (=the quality of being chosen specially for one person).

For someone very special, you might be looking for a gift that is lavish (= expensive and impressive). However, most people agree it’s not the amount of money that you spend, ‘it’s the thought that counts‘ (= what is most important is the kindness and love that you show by giving the present). After all, an inexpensive but well chosen present can be just as welcome. Sometimes, the giver even says as they are presenting a small or modest gift, ‘It’s a little something.’ or ‘It’s just a token.’, meaning that the gift is not of great value, but is intended to show kindness. If they are giving the gift to thank a person, they may mention this at the same time, for example, saying ‘It’s a token of my gratitude/appreciation‘.

Of course, gift buying isn’t always easy. Everyone  has someone in the family who is ‘hard to buy for‘, whether it is a brother who is not at all materialistic (=keen on money and possessions), or a sister who is so particular that she insists on choosing her gifts herself. When you give a present to this type of person, it’s a good idea to also give them the receipt so that they can return the item or take it back. (A special gift receipt for this purpose will not show how much the present cost.) If they like the item, but want to change one aspect of it – for example, the size – they may exchange it instead. (Go to any store after the holiday season is over and you will see people returning unwanted gifts.)

If you are giving gifts over the holiday season, we hope they will be appreciated. And if you’re in any doubt, remember to hand over the receipt!


35 thoughts on “It’s the thought that counts. (The language of giving and receiving gifts)

  1. Pingback: It’s the thought that counts. (The language of giving and receiving gifts) | Editorials Today

  2. This article seems to me accurate over holidays time. I´ve read your posts for several months and you always put your personal touch on each. Let me congratulate for your hard work and thank your for improve our vocabulary as well. Today I learnt “lavish” “Keen” and “Token”. I really appreciate it. Keep on it and my beste regards from Spain

  3. Pingback: It’s the thought that counts. (The language of giving and receiving gifts) – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Dec 14, 2016) | Editorial Words

  4. Muhammad Shahbaz

    Kate woodford please welcome me in this blog. This is shahbaz from pakistan and very much interested in this site and blog

  5. li xueying

    Thank you so much. It is really a useful way to learn words. Here I SAW ‘lavish’ again^^ Really useful!! Worthy reading again and again.

  6. Tatiana Balandina

    Thank you, Kate! Your articles are always perferct gifts to us. I wish you could supply us with such interesting and useful material for a long time.

  7. firstinal felix

    I appreciate what you feed me regardless some awkwardness I meet in my personal practices. I’m really grateful for that.

  8. Chirag

    Well to be honest, i just happened to see the caption of your writing and decided to read it. For such a beautiful and lucid style of writing i loved it…but at the same time it really talked the truth out. I mean everyone thinks an expensive gift would be the best to give and still hate to admit it…but you presented it in a beautiful way…This was the first time i read your article but it’s certainly not going to be the last!

  9. Kate Woodford

    What a lovely response, Chirag! Thank you! Do come back – we post articles on a variety of subjects. Best wishes to you!

  10. Mohammad Tauseef

    “It’s the thought that counts” is some piece of wisdom.
    So many useful phrases and words with context and explanations! And a useful piece of advice to close the article.

    That’s a good read. Thank you for the effort.

  11. Sanjivanee

    I’m excited to read,”it’s the thought that counts” .
    A token of appreciation
    I’m preparing a class on virtue “appreciation””.
    Thank you very much!


  12. Nana Goshadze

    Hello Kate! I’ve been using this online dictionary, and I’ve come across your articles just a couple of weeks ago. And I love it! Thank you Kate!

  13. I like how you said that a well-chosen present can be just as welcome as one that’s lavish. My daughter has been seeing her boyfriend for a few months now, and she asked for my help finding a good Christmas gift for him. Keeping your tips in mind should help us find a gift that he’ll enjoy without spending too much money!

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