He was educated by Collier and matriculated from Glasgow University in 1873. He made a few visits to Europe, but never visited the regions that he studied.
Gibb acquired a knowledge of Arabic and Persian languages, and became especially interested in Turkish language and literature. Gibb married and moved to London in 1899. His series of volumes on Ottoman poetry is especially noteworthy.
He died 5 December 1901 at his residence in London from scarlet fever, and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.
His library was acquired by Cambridge University, the British Museum, and the British embassy at Constantinople. His name is commemorated in the long running "Gibb Memorial Series" of publications, primarily devoted to the translation of Turkish, Persian and Arabic texts, funded by the trust established by Jane Gibb (d 1904), the authors mother.