Gel or Jell vs. Jelled or Gelled – Difference & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Oh, English language, you wicked thing! We just love to make things complicated, don’t we? Just look at the words gel and jell and their past tense forms gelled and jelled. They look like they’d mean the same thing, and their definition is pretty similar. But there’s a fine line, and I’ll break it down for you right here.

Gel vs. Jell

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When someone says “gel,” they’re talking about a semi-solid substance like hair gel, while the word “jell” means the process of turning a liquid substance into a jelly-like substance. It’s a fine line, but just think of it this way: Hair gel can jell if left out too long. Gel is the thing, while jell is the state.

What Does Gel Mean?

It’s a noun and refers to a substance that is thick and jelly-like in texture, my least favorite of all the textures. You can find it made from a bunch of different materials like natural ingredients such as gelatin or synthetic materials like silicone. Gels are used for a ton of purposes; in cosmetics to create a smooth, moisturizing texture or in food to give a jelly-like consistency.

But gel is also used as a verb in two ways. You can gel your hair, which is the action of adding gel to your hair to style it. But you can also use it to describe how two or more people work well together. (Note: The word jell can also be used correctly for this, but I’ll discuss that below.)

What Does Jell Mean?

It’s a verb that basically means to turn something into a Jell-O-like substance or to congeal. Think of Jell-O. When you first mix it, it’s just a liquid. But when you put it in the fridge overnight, it turns to Jell-O. Well, that process, in present tense form, is called jell. When you put it in the fridge, you could say, “This will jell overnight.”

Gelled vs. Jelled

So far, the distinction between “gel” and “jell” is fairly straightforward, right? But things get a little trickier when we look at the past tense forms “gelled” and “jelled.”

So, What Does Gelled Mean?

The past tense form of “gel” is “gelled,” and it can also mean the process of becoming a gel-like substance. Like, “This dollar store hair product gelled in my hand, creating nothing but a sticky mess.” I know what you’re thinking, but that just sounds exactly like the definition of jell or jelled. There’s a slight difference; stick with me.

What Does Jelled Mean?

So, you would use “jelled” as the past tense form of “jell.” It refers to the method of turning something into a jelly-like material. My mother used to make this gross fruit jelly dish to bring to every special event we went to. And she’d put a bowl of liquid in the fridge in the morning, and that watery fruit mixture jelled as it cooled.

Is It Jelled or Gelled?

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It depends on what you’re talking about. In conversation, it doesn’t matter, as they sound exactly the same. But if you’re spelling it out, use the word jelled to refer to something becoming a jelly state. Use the word gelled when talking about using a jelly-like substance or when talking about a substance becoming more solid. Here, I’ll show you two examples.

  • The Jell-O jelled perfectly overnight.
  • I gelled my hair, and now it looks great.
  • The stew got gelled overnight.

Difference Between Gel and Jelly

Gel is a noun, and it’s a substance like hair gel. Jelly is the state of the substance. It’s like gel and be jelly. I know it’s confusing. The English language is a funny thing.

Do You Say Gelling or Jelling?

You would say gelling if talking about adding hair gel to your hair or talking about a substance becoming more solid. You are gelling your hair to style it. You’d say jelling in two scenarios. One would be its basic context of talking about how Jell-O sets up in the fridge; it’s jelling as it solidifies.

But jelling, in modern usage, can also be used to describe how two or more people work really well together, like a team or a partnership. “We just jell really well” or “The team is really jelling this week.”

Examples of Gel and Gelled in a Sentence

  • I use hair gel to style my hair every morning.
  • I need to gel my hair before the school bus comes. 
  • I love how the team just gels together. 
  • The gel in my running shoes helps absorb shock and reduces the impact on my knees.
  • I applied a cooling gel to my sunburned skin for relief.
  • The chef used a gel made from agar to thicken the sauce.
  • The scientist mixed different chemicals to create a gel for use in an experiment.
  • After applying the hair gel, my hair gelled into a sleek, styled look.
  • The mixture of chemicals in the test tube gelled, indicating a successful reaction.
  • My skin felt refreshed after the sunburn treatment gel gelled on my skin.
  • The sauce thickened as the agar gel gelled and changed its consistency.

Examples of Jell and Jelled in a Sentence

  • The fruit mixture in the refrigerator jelled overnight and became a jelly-like substance.
  • The chef jelled the fruit mixture by adding gelatin and refrigerating it.
  • I jelled the fruit mixture to make a delicious jelly for my toast.
  • The sauce jelled after being heated and then cooled, creating a thicker consistency.
  • The other materials will jell with the paint and give the painting a unique, textured look.
  • My hair product will jell on my hair, and I’ll hopefully get a good hold for the whole day.

Gel and Jell Are Such Strange Terms

So, there you have it. To keep things simple and easy to remember, just think of gel as the noun and jell as the verb. That’s how I keep it straight in my mind.