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mid-14c., "tax paid to a ruler or master for security or protection," from Latin tributum "tribute," literally "a thing contributed or paid," noun use of tributus, neuter past participle of tribuere "to pay, assign, grant," also "allot among the tribes or to a tribe," from tribus (see tribe). Sense of "offering, gift, token" is first recorded 1580s.
a tax imposed by a king on his subjects (2 Sam. 20:24; 1 Kings 4:6; Rom. 13:6). In Matt. 17:24-27 the word denotes the temple rate (the "didrachma," the "half-shekel," as rendered by the R.V.) which was required to be paid for the support of the temple by every Jew above twenty years of age (Ex. 30:12; 2 Kings 12:4; 2 Chr. 24:6, 9). It was not a civil but a religious tax. In Matt. 22:17, Mark 12:14, Luke 20:22, the word may be interpreted as denoting the capitation tax which the Romans imposed on the Jewish people. It may, however, be legitimately regarded as denoting any tax whatever imposed by a foreign power on the people of Israel. The "tribute money" shown to our Lord (Matt. 22:19) was the denarius, bearing Caesar's superscription. It was the tax paid by every Jew to the Romans. (See PENNY.)