early 15c., "income from property or possessions," from Old French revenue "a return," noun use of fem. past participle of revenir "come back" (10c.), from Latin revenire "return, come back," from re- "back" (see re-) + venire "to come" (from a suffixed form of PIE root *gwa- "to go, come").
The meaning "public income, annual income of a government or state" is recorded from 1680s; revenue sharing was popularized from 1971, the Nixon Administration's policy of returning power to state and local governments by steering federal taxpayer money to them. Revenuer "U.S. Department of Revenue agent," the bane of Appalachian moonshiners, is attested by 1880.