late 14c., contribucioun, "a levy imposed by a body politic upon a district or population" (for example to pay for military defense in a border region), from Old French contribution "payment" and directly from Late Latin contributionem (nominative contributio) "a dividing, a distributing, a contribution," noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin contribuere "to bring together, add, contribute," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + tribuere "to allot, pay" (see tribute).
Meaning "the act of giving in common with others" is from mid-15c. Sense of "that which is given toward a common end" is from c. 1600. Sense of "a writing for a magazine or journal" is from 1714.
"royal tax," a term that survived in old law and in scot-free; late Old English, "municipal charges and taxes," also "a royal tax or contribution sometimes levied for support of local officers." This is from Old Norse skot "contribution," etymologically "a shooting, shot; a thing shot, a missile" (from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw"). The Old Norse verb form, skjota, has a secondary sense of "transfer to another; pay." It is related to Old English sceotan "to pay, contribute," Middle English scotten "to bear one's share of;" Dutch schot, German Schoß "tax, contribution."
Also via Old French escot "reckoning, payment" (Modern French écot "share"), and via Medieval Latin scotum, scottum, both from Germanic, as is Spanish ecote.
From c. 1300 as "payment for food or drink at a social gathering," also figurative (late 12c.), a sense also in the Old French word. Hence scot-ale (n.) "a drinking party, probably compulsory, held by a sheriff, forester, bailiff, etc., for which a contribution was exacted" [Middle English Compendium], attested from late 12c., with ending as in bridal. "Scot implies a contribution toward some object to which others contributed equally" [Century Dictionary].
also gild, early 13c., yilde (spelling later influenced by Old Norse gildi "guild, brotherhood"), a semantic fusion of Old English gegield "guild, brotherhood," and gield "service, offering; payment, tribute; compensation," from Proto-Germanic *geldja- "payment, contribution" (source also of Old Frisian geld "money," Old Saxon geld "payment, sacrifice, reward," Old High German gelt "payment, tribute;" see yield (v.)).
The connecting sense is of a contribution or payment to join a protective or trade society. But some look to the alternative prehistoric sense of "sacrifice," as if in worship, and see the word as meaning a combination for religious purposes, either Christian or pagan. The Anglo-Saxon guilds had a strong religious component; they were burial societies that paid for Masses for the souls of deceased members as well as paying fines in cases of justified crime.
The earliest reference was to sacred banquets (Tacit: Germania 21-2) for which a contribution had to be paid, and which furthermore accounts for the meaning 'fraternity' of the formation *geldja-. In medieval times the economically oriented fraternities, the guilds, adopted this word, but it could still be used in reference to religious fraternities .... The contribution to the banquets, *gelda-, acquired a legal meaning 'recompense', but also the meaning 'money, currency' in general. [Dirk Boutkan, "Old Frisian Etymological Dictionary"]
Continental guilds of merchants, incorporated in each town or city and holding exclusive rights of doing business there, arrived after the Conquest. In many cases they became the governing body of a town (compare Guildhall, which came to be the London city hall). Trade guilds arose 14c., as craftsmen united to protect their common interest.
How to keep little children busy while not reciting, is the despair of many a teacher. Miss Goodyear solves the problem by introducing a modification of the kindergarten occupations, which she denominates "busy work." Tablets, rings, slats, weaving, and the like, drawing, writing, all are laid under contribution. In this way the interest of the little folk is aroused and directed. ["Annual Report of the State Superintendent of Education, of the State of South Carolina," 1886]