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

As the committee’s senior Democrat, Dianne Feinstein would become arbiter of the federal judiciary. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "High Noon for Judge Kavanaugh," 3 Oct. 2018 These clever little bags were dreamed up by sisters Giulia and Camilla Venturini and have quickly become the go-to accessory for young arbiters of style like model Paloma Elsesser and photographer Petra Collins. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "9 Celebrity-Approved Fashion Labels That Made It Big in 2018," 20 Dec. 2018 While these arbiters of design work fiercely to create dream homes, there’s never a shortage of hilarity, sass, and an unpretentious playfulness that fuels their relationships with the homeowners and each other. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "The Original 'Queer Eye' Stars Reunite For TV's Most Stylish Home Makeover Show," 19 Oct. 2018 In our view, this is the way all computer and smartphone platforms should provide security, rather than entrusting one monopoly app store as the arbiter of what software users are allowed to obtain. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Fortnite for Android will ditch Google Play Store for Epic’s website," 3 Aug. 2018 Wintour is seen as the most influential arbiter of American fashion. BostonGlobe.com, "In tearful interview, Harvey Weinstein’s wife says she was ‘so naive’," 10 May 2018 An impartial arbiter then decides which price is the right one and issues a decision. Sarah Kliff, Vox, "More and more senators want to end surprise ER bills. Here’s the newest plan.," 29 Oct. 2018 Are social networks the new arbiters of who can be amplified? Ted Anthony, The Seattle Times, "In chaotic era, conference aims to amplify 1st Amendment," 23 Oct. 2018 Wu is an arbiter of glamour and ladylike sophistication, a designer who has created iconic red carpet gowns and one very special inauguration dress. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "Jason Wu Is Launching a Denim Collection With the Help of 3x1," 12 Sep. 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

16 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for arbiter

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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