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or gild

[gild] /gɪld/
an organization of persons with related interests, goals, etc., especially one formed for mutual aid or protection.
any of various medieval associations, as of merchants or artisans, organized to maintain standards and to protect the interests of its members, and that sometimes constituted a local governing body.
Botany. a group of plants, as parasites, having a similar habit of growth and nutrition.
Origin of guild
before 1000; Middle English gild(e) < Old Norse gildi guild, payment; replacing Old English gegyld guild; akin to German Geld money, Gothic -gild tax
Can be confused
gild, gilt, guild, guilt. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for guilds
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And all ranks and guilds had their signs, by which they might be known.

    Albert Durer T. Sturge Moore
  • Previous to being Mayor he had been an eminent personage as master of the guilds.

    Holbein Beatrice Fortescue
  • Then there is no caste; there are no guilds of trade, or art, or science.

    The Soul of a People H. Fielding
  • Even what is good about them is not what was good about the guilds.

    A Short History of England

    G. K. Chesterton
  • Architects, engineers, and missionaries likewise have their guilds.

    Travels in the Far East

    Ellen Mary Hayes Peck
  • You shall learn presently what was the meaning of these guilds.

    The History of London Walter Besant
  • The guilds are virtually hereditary, even the fruit venders' guild.

    Starman's Quest Robert Silverberg
  • The triumphs of the Dutch school are the portraits of the guilds.

  • No person can trade unless he is a member of one of three guilds.

    Fred Markham in Russia W. H. G. Kingston
British Dictionary definitions for guilds


an organization, club, or fellowship
(esp in medieval Europe) an association of men sharing the same interests, such as merchants or artisans: formed for mutual aid and protection and to maintain craft standards or pursue some other purpose such as communal worship
(ecology) a group of plants, such as a group of epiphytes, that share certain habits or characteristics
Word Origin
C14: of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse gjald payment, gildi guild; related to Old English gield offering, Old High German gelt money
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for guilds



early 13c., yilde (spelling later influenced by Old Norse gildi "guild, brotherhood"), a semantic fusion of Old English gegyld "guild" and gild, gyld "payment, tribute, compensation," from Proto-Germanic *gelth- "pay" (cf. 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 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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guilds in Culture

guilds definition

Organizations of artisans in the Middle Ages that sought to regulate the price and quality of products such as weaving and ironwork. Guilds survived into the eighteenth century.

Note: Guilds gave way to trade unions, a very different type of organization. The artisans in the guilds were self-employed, unlike most members of trade unions.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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