Tribute where it's due
Len Waldman wants to know if there is a connection between tribute, tributary and tribune.
Yes indeed, as well as contribute, tribe, distribute, retribution and three. The Latin tribus meant "division of the Roman people", probably from tri-, the root for three, and stood for the three original tribes, the Tities, the Ramnes and the Luceres.
The head of a tribe was a tribunus, from which sprang tribune and (via the verb tribuere, to give out among the tribes) contribute, distribute, retribution and tribute. The link with tributary is thus fairly clear.
The Latin tri- also meant rub, so a few words that sound as if they're linked in fact have quite separate etymologies. For instance tribulation comes from tribulum, a device used for threshing grain. This evolved into tribulare, or press, which in turn evolved into afflict.
Len's query helped me answer a question I hadn't even asked, but had thought about on and off. Why was lesbianism known in the 19th century as tribadism? Because it too comes from the Latin root tri- for rub.
I bet you all wanted to know that.
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