Old English scotfreo "exempt from royal tax," from scot "royal tax," from Old Norse skot "contribution," literally "a shooting, shot; thing shot, missile" (from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw;" the Old Norse verb form, skjota, has a secondary sense of "transfer to another; pay") + freo (see free (adj.)). First element related to Old English sceotan "to pay, contribute," Dutch schot, German Schoß "tax, contribution." French écot "share" (Old French escot) is from Germanic.
Entries linking to scot-free
It forms all or part of: scot-free; scout (v.2) "to reject with scorn;" sheet (n.1) "cloth, covering;" sheet (n.2) "rope that controls a sail;" shoot; shot; shout; shut; shuttle; skeet; wainscot.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit skundate "hastens, makes haste;" Old Church Slavonic iskydati "to throw out;" Lithuanian skudrus "quick, nimble;" Old English sceotan "to hurl missiles," Old Norse skjota "to shoot with (a weapon)."
Old English freo "exempt from; not in bondage, acting of one's own will," also "noble; joyful," from Proto-Germanic *friaz "beloved; not in bondage" (source also of Old Frisian fri, Old Saxon vri, Old High German vri, German frei, Dutch vrij, Gothic freis "free"), from PIE *priy-a- "dear, beloved," from root *pri- "to love."
The sense evolution from "to love" to "free" is perhaps from the terms "beloved" or "friend" being applied to the free members of one's clan (as opposed to slaves; compare Latin liberi, meaning both "free persons" and "children of a family"). For the older sense in Germanic, compare Gothic frijon "to love;" Old English freod "affection, friendship, peace," friga "love," friðu "peace;" Old Norse friðr "peace, personal security; love, friendship," German Friede "peace;" Old English freo "wife;" Old Norse Frigg, name of the wife of Odin, literally "beloved" or "loving;" Middle Low German vrien "to take to wife," Dutch vrijen, German freien "to woo."
Meaning "clear of obstruction" is from mid-13c.; sense of "unrestrained in movement" is from c. 1300; of animals, "loose, at liberty, wild," late 14c. Meaning "liberal, not parsimonious" is from c. 1300. Sense of "characterized by liberty of action or expression" is from 1630s; of art, etc., "not holding strictly to rule or form," from 1813. Of nations, "not subject to foreign rule or to despotism," recorded in English from late 14c. (Free world "non-communist nations" attested from 1950 on notion of "based on principles of civil liberty.") Sense of "given without cost" is 1580s, from notion of "free of cost."
Free even to the definition of freedom, "without any hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution." [Emerson, "The American Scholar," 1837]
Free lunch, originally offered in bars to draw in customers, by 1850, American English. Free pass on railways, etc., attested by 1850. Free speech in Britain was used of a privilege in Parliament since the time of Henry VIII. In U.S., in reference to a civil right to expression, it became a prominent phrase in the debates over the Gag Rule (1836). Free enterprise recorded from 1832; free trade is from 1823; free market from 1630s. Free will is from early 13c. Free school is from late 15c. Free association in psychology is from 1899. Free love "sexual liberation" attested from 1822 (the doctrine itself is much older), American English. Free and easy "unrestrained" is from 1690s.
Old English scot, sceot "a shot, a shooting, an act of shooting; that which is discharged in shooting, what is shot forth; darting, rapid motion," from Proto-Germanic *skutan (source also of Old Norse skutr, Old Frisian skete, Middle Dutch scote, German Schuß "a shot"), related to sceotan "to shoot," from PIE root *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw."
Meaning "discharge of a bow, missile," also is from related Old English gesceot. Extended to other projectiles in Middle English, and to sports (hockey, basketball, etc.) 1868. Another original meaning, "payment" (perhaps literally "money thrown down") is preserved in scot-free. "Throwing down" might also have led to the meaning "a drink," first attested 1670s, the more precise meaning "small drink of straight liquor" by 1928 (shot glass is by 1955). Camera view sense is from 1958.
Sense of "hypodermic injection" first attested 1904; figurative phrase shot in the arm "stimulant" is by 1922. Meaning "try, attempt" is from 1756; sense of "remark meant to wound" is recorded from 1841. Meaning "an expert in shooting" is from 1780. To call the shots "control events, make decisions" is American English, 1922, perhaps from sport shooting. Shot in the dark "uninformed guess" is from 1885. Big shot "important person" is from 1861.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
[Emerson, from "Concord Hymn"]