arbiter

noun
ar·​bi·​ter | \ ˈär-bə-tər How to pronounce arbiter (audio) \

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 arbiter limited the ruling to those two events. David Woods, Indianapolis Star, "USATF accused of incompetence in selecting track team for Pan Am Games," 11 July 2019 Vijaya Gadde: Our historical preference has been not to be the arbiters of truth. Eric Johnson, Vox, "Twitter’s Kayvon Beykpour and Vijaya Gadde: the Code Conference interview (transcript)," 27 June 2019 Symons is the state’s first arbiter this year to receive severe public censure by the Commission on Judicial Performance — the state oversight for judges. Michael Todd, The Mercury News, "Santa Cruz attorneys confirm Superior Court judge’s misconduct," 24 June 2019 Buoyed by this patronage, Brummell became their role model, the arbiter of elegance in London society during the first decade of the 19th century. Ignacio Peyró, National Geographic, "This 19th-century London dandy caused a style revolution," 18 June 2019 The article concedes that the designation is subjective, but then, ever the arbiter, shows a slideshow of different neighborhoods chosen by interviewees. Collier Meyerson, WIRED, "The Last Black Man Searches for ‘Authenticity’ but There Is None," 6 June 2019 Former editor of Teen Vogue, this fashion and culture arbiter discusses her book — part memoir, part manifesto — on finding your way in world and workplace. John Timpane, https://www.inquirer.com, "Readings by authors in Philly this summer: Jennifer Weiner, Richard Russo, and more," 5 June 2019 Patricia Altschul, legendary grand dame and the breakout star of Bravo's Southern Charm, is the arbiter of all things chic. Luzanne Otte, Town & Country, "Patricia Altschul's Very Specific Guide to Traveling in Style," 18 May 2019 Despite how innovative and prolific black style arbiters are, the fashion industry often fails to recognize our contributions. Jessica Andrews, Teen Vogue, "Black Women on the September Covers Give Me Hope, But There’s Still More Work to Do," 20 Aug. 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

17 Jul 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 How to pronounce arbiter (audio) \

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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