- Date: 14th century
- 1 a : a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledgment of submission or as the price of protection; also : the tax levied for such a payment
- b (1) : an excessive tax, rental, or tariff imposed by a government, sovereign, lord, or landlord (2) : an exorbitant charge levied by a person or group having the power of coercion
- c : the liability to pay tribute
- 2 a : something given or contributed voluntarily as due or deserved; especially : a gift or service showing respect, gratitude, or affection <a floral tribute>
- b : something (as material evidence or a formal attestation) that indicates the worth, virtue, or effectiveness of the one in question <the design is a tribute to his ingenuity>
A tribute (from Latin tributum, contribution) is wealth one party gives to another as a sign of respect or, as was often the case in historical contexts, of submission or allegiance. It also incorporated certain aspects of regulated trade in goods and services between the parties under a contractual relationship formed upon duress, and based upon the potential for threats if specific performance did not occur. A tributary or tributary state is a state, colony, region, or people who pay tribute to a more powerful, suzerain state.
Various ancient states, which could be called suzerains, exacted tribute from areas they had conquered or threatened to conquer. In case of alliances, lesser parties gave tribute to the dominant parties as a sign of allegiance and for the purposes of financing the agreed projects - usually raising an army. The term may also be used on religious tax used for maintenance of temples and other sacred places.
Athens received tribute from the other cities of the Delian League. Empires of Assyria, Babylon, Carthage and Rome exacted tribute from their provinces and subject kingdoms. Ancient China received tribute from various states such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Roman republic also exacted tribute in the form of equivalent to proportional property taxes for the purpose of waging war.