noun, often capitalized
dane·​geld | \ ˈdān-ˌgeld How to pronounce danegeld (audio) \

Definition of danegeld

: an annual tax believed to have been imposed originally to buy off Danish invaders in England or to maintain forces to oppose them but continued as a land tax

Did You Know?

The subjects of King Ethelred II, who ruled England from 978-1016, didn't think much of the ruler the dubbed "the Unready." They suspected him of murdering his brother to gain the throne, so it isn't surprising that they didn't rally around him to defend the country against the Danish invaders who attempted to unseat him. Ethelred tried a payoff tax called the Danegeld as a last ditch effort to keep his kingdom intact. The Dane part of the name refers to the Danish invaders who received the money. The geld part comes from an Old English word meaning "payment" or "tribute."

First Known Use of danegeld

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about danegeld

Time Traveler for danegeld

Time Traveler

The first known use of danegeld was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about danegeld

Statistics for danegeld

Cite this Entry

“Danegeld.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/danegeld. Accessed 13 Aug. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on danegeld

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about danegeld

Comments on danegeld

What made you want to look up danegeld? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!