Gossip is a broad term that is defined in several different ways. In general, gossip involves the creation and repetition of rumors regarding an individual who is not present to offer his or her perspective on the purported events under discussion. Generally, gossip has little or no basis in fact and is sometimes intended to convey a negative image of an individual. This process of spreading rumors is utilized in just about every setting from reporting on the movements of public figures to discussing situations involving family, friends, and acquaintances.
It is not unusual for people who engage in the spreading of gossip to not consider themselves to be gossips. The rationalization is that the individual is simply conveying information that was shared from another source and thus is not the author of the data. Thus, he or she is not responsible for the reliability of the information. Also, there may be no real malice behind the distribution of the rumor. This is often the case when repeating a rumor about friends who are presumed to be going through a rough period with a spouse, or there is speculation on why an acquaintance recently left a job.
However, gossip is not always negative in content. It is possible to create and spread rumors about rumored positive events or attributes of another person. For example, the word may begin to spread that an individual is thinking about marrying someone that he or she has dated for some time. While the rumor may in fact be considered good news to those that hear it, the information may not be factual and could lead to negative consequences for the subject of the gossip.
Essentially, gossip has its roots in speculation and conjecture about events or attributes of people rather than focusing solely on facts that can be easily proved. Just about everyone engages in gossip in some manner. Business associates may share gossip about people they work with. Neighbors may speculate on details of the private lives of other people living in the neighborhood. Even well meaning friends may get together and hash over what they think they know about a mutual friend who is not present. There is no setting for human interaction that automatically precludes the potential for gossip. Gossip is spread through verbal, print, and electronic communications.
While many forms of gossip are relatively innocuous, gossip has the potential to ruin lives and reputations. For this reason, it is usually a good idea to double check all types of information regarding other people before passing it on to another individual.