In contemporary Kentucky terminology c. 2021, many craft interest groups call themselves a "guild." For example, here is a listing of many Kentucky-based "Quilt Guilds."

But in the medieval period (C.E. 1000–1500), guilds were trade associations. In addition to regional or local merchant guilds, there were medieval-era craft guilds, which were occupational associations, usually comprised of all the artisans and craftsmen in a particular branch of industry or commerce.

There were, for instance, guilds of weavers, dyers, and fullers in the wool trade; and of masons and architects in the building trades; and there were guilds of painters, metalsmiths, blacksmiths, bakers, butchers, leatherworkers, soapmakers, and so on.


Beginning at the end of the 18th century, the ideal of guilds fell into disfavor, particularly due to changing perceptions of real economies that were being transformed by writers and thinkers as diverse as John Locke, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx.

Guilds are sometimes said to be the precursors of modern trade unions. Guilds, however, can also be seen as a set of self-employed skilled craftsmen with ownership and control over the materials and tools they needed to produce their goods.