late 14c., "thing stolen," from Old French bribe "bit, piece, hunk; morsel of bread given to beggars" (14c., cf. Old French bribeor "vagrant, beggar"), from briber, brimber "to beg," a general Romanic word (Gamillscheg marks it as Rotwelsch, i.e. "thieves' jargon"), of uncertain origin; old sources suggest Celtic (cf. Breton breva "to break"). Shift of meaning to "gift given to influence corruptly" is by mid-15c.