arbiter

noun
ar·​bi·​ter | \ˈär-bə-tər \

Definition of arbiter 

1 : a person with power to decide a dispute : judge The mayor will act as the final arbiter in any dispute between board members.

2 : a person or agency whose judgment or opinion is considered authoritative arbiters of taste

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Are arbiter and arbitration arbitrary?

A large portion of the words we use today come from Latin roots. Many of these words retain a meaning that is closely related to their Latin ancestor, although sometimes they will drift a considerable distance from their roots (sinister, for instance, had the meaning of “on the left side” in Latin, but also meant “unlucky, inauspicious”). In some instances, a single Latin word will give rise to multiple words in English, some of which have strayed in meaning, and others which have not.

An example of this may be found in our word arbiter. We trace it to the Latin root with the same spelling, arbiter, meaning “eyewitness, onlooker, person appointed to settle a dispute.” A number of English words stem from the Latin arbiter, many of which have to do with judging or being a judge. An arbiter is a judge, and arbitration is the act of judging, or serving as an arbiter. Yet the most common meaning of arbitrary is “existing or coming about seemingly at random or by chance or as a capricious and unreasonable act of will,” which seems to be quite a bit different in meaning from the other two words. Arbitrary does indeed come from the same Latin root, and its oldest meaning in English was “depending on choice or discretion particularly regarding the decision of a judge or a tribunal.” But over time it developed additional senses that are somewhat removed from that initial meaning.

Examples of arbiter in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The pacts didn’t give donors control over academic decisions, Cabrera wrote, and most of the documents clearly stated the university is the final arbiter of faculty appointments. Sarah Larimer, Washington Post, "George Mason University Foundation is not subject to public records laws, judge rules," 6 July 2018 So far, the arbiters of the term have been white men of privilege, but so what? refinery29.com, "What Americana Means (And Doesn't) In 2018: From Childish Gambino To Roseanne," 3 July 2018 If that happens, the Supreme Court’s reputation as a neutral arbiter above the partisan fray, which is already shaky, would be kaput. The Economist, "A court with a solid conservative majority could reshape American life," 5 July 2018 Technology companies have tried to position themselves as platforms, rather than media publishers that are arbiters of truth. Fortune, "Twitter Will Personalize News for Users in Comprehensive Product Update," 13 June 2018 Renee’s mother, Margaret, served as the brassy arbiter atop the city’s election machinery for 36 years as chairperson of the Board of City Commissioners. Jeremy Roebuck, Philly.com, "Philly politico Renee Tartaglione sentenced to nearly 7 years in prison," 12 July 2018 The second source of crisis arises from Mr. Trump withholding support for the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s appellate body, the ultimate arbiter of international trade disputes. Simon Nixon, WSJ, "Trump Puts the WTO on the Ropes," 11 July 2018 She was never trained as an actress, but her eye for style was honed among the sharpest arbiters of the day. Cindy Dampier, chicagotribune.com, "Ali McGraw on going gray, getting a uniform and channeling great style at every age," 18 June 2018 For the #MeToo ideal of creeps not prospering to become a reality will, queasily, require corporate America to act as a major moral—and by proxy, yes, cultural—arbiter. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "What Went Wrong With Spotify’s ‘Hateful Conduct’ Policy?," 5 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'arbiter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of arbiter

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for arbiter

Middle English arbitour, arbitre, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin arbiter "eyewitness, onlooker, person appointed to settle a dispute," perhaps, if going back to *ad-biteros, from ad- ad- + *-biteros, derivative from a base *-bit- akin to bītere, baetere, bētere "to go," of obscure origin

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Statistics for arbiter

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

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The first known use of arbiter was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for arbiter

arbiter

noun
ar·​bi·​ter | \ˈär-bə-tər \

Legal Definition of arbiter 

History and Etymology for arbiter

Latin, onlooker, arbitrator

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More from Merriam-Webster on arbiter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for arbiter

Spanish Central: Translation of arbiter

Nglish: Translation of arbiter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of arbiter for Arabic Speakers

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