Where did the “scot” come from in scot-free? I had never thought about it before. Was it some sort of reference to the Scottish people?
scot-free adjective: Completely free from harm, restraint, punishment, or obligation: To go scot-free (also to escape, get off, etc,) <The driver of the car escaped from the accident scot-free. The judge let the defendant off scot-free.> [1200–50; Middle English from Old Norse skattrp tax, treasure; c. OE gescot payment; see SCOT, FREE]
scot noun Historical
1) a payment or charge.
2) one's share of a payment or charge.
3) an assessment or tax.
(Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and The Oxford English Dictionary)
The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources:
<1740 “She should not, for all the Trouble she has cost you, go away scot-free.”—Pamela by S. Richardson, II. page 34>
<1819 “Do as much for this fellow, and thou shalt pass scot-free.”—Ivanhoe by Scott, I. xi. page 227>
<1954 “But that's barbarous! He gets off scot free and she has to be dragged through the mud.”—Beyond Glass by A, White, I. ii. page 25>
< 2000 “The concept of blood money . . . allows the murderer to go scot free.”—Dawn (Karachi), 16 April, page 12/3>
<2017 “Dinner at home with friends sounds fun. Cheaper than running around town! Don't imagine you will get off entirely scot free as the family are inclined to spend money like water.”—The Mirror (London), 25 November>
Ken Greenwald—December 3, 2017