Word Origin & History
c.1230, yilde (spelling later infl. by O.N. gildi), a semantic fusion of O.E. gegyld "guild" and gild, gyld "payment, tribute, compensation," from P.Gmc. *gelth- "pay" (cf. O.Fris. geld "money," O.S. geld "payment, sacrifice, reward," O.H.G. gelt "payment, tribute"). The connecting sense is of a tribute
or payment to join a protective or trade society. But some see the root in its alternative 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 continental custom of guilds of merchants arrived after the Conquest, with incorporated societies of merchants in each town or city holding exclusive rights of doing business there. In many cases they became the governing body of a town (cf. Guildhall, which came to be the London city hall). Trade guilds arose 14c., as craftsmen united to protect their common interest.