Gneiss is a common and widely distributed type of rock
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 formed by high-grade regional metamorphic
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

 processes from pre-existing formations that were originally either igneous
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

 or sedimentary
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

The etymology of the word "gneiss" is disputed. Some sources say it comes from the Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

 gneist (to spark; so called because the rock glitters). It has occurred in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 since at least 1757.

Other sources claim the root to be an old Saxon
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

 mining term that seems to have meant decayed, rotten, or possibly worthless material.
Gneissic rocks are usually medium- to coarse-foliated
Foliation (geology)
Foliation is any penetrative planar fabric present in rocks. Foliation is common to rocks affected by regional metamorphic compression typical of orogenic belts. Rocks exhibiting foliation include the standard sequence formed by the prograde metamorphism of mudrocks; slate, phyllite, schist and...

 and largely recrystallized
Recrystallization (geology)
In geology, solid-state recrystallization is a metamorphic process that occurs under situations of intense temperature and pressure where grains, atoms or molecules of a rock or mineral are packed closer together, creating a new crystal structure. The basic composition remains the same...

 but do not carry large quantities of mica
The mica group of sheet silicate minerals includes several closely related materials having highly perfect basal cleavage. All are monoclinic, with a tendency towards pseudohexagonal crystals, and are similar in chemical composition...

s, chlorite
Chlorite group
The chlorites are a group of phyllosilicate minerals. Chlorites can be described by the following four endmembers based on their chemistry via substitution of the following four elements in the silicate lattice; Mg, Fe, Ni, and Mn....

 or other platy mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...