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

An arbiter of truth gets to shape the reality that its users perceive. Recode Staff, Recode, "Why the Craig behind Craigslist gave big bucks to a journalism program," 15 July 2018 But an arbiter later ruled that Walker had been wrongfully fired, the Victorville Daily Press reported in 2014. Jared Gilmour, sacbee, "Cop in black man’s shooting death had been fired after racial slurs — then reinstated, police say | The Sacramento Bee," 1 May 2018 Source communities themselves are the best arbiters of what is or is not misappropriation. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "The cultural appropriation debate has changed. But is it for the better?," 18 Dec. 2018 The label was an arbiter of cool, as were the other hallowed indies (many of which are no more, though Sub Pop endures). Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Taking to Rebecca Gates of The Spinanes, as Manos—a Lost '90s Indie-Rock Classic—Gets a Deluxe Reissue," 5 Dec. 2018 As far as the association is concerned, patients and their physicians -- those trained to work with the community -- are the best arbiters of what's medically necessary for that person. Emanuella Grinberg, CNN, "What is medically necessary treatment for gender-affirming health care?," 31 May 2018 Glassdoor has become an important arbiter of employee sentiment in today’s highly competitive job market. Andrea Fuller, WSJ, "How Companies Secretly Boost Their Glassdoor Ratings," 22 Jan. 2019 Meanwhile, the magazine industry, once the arbiter of interior tastes, has been in decline for the last decade, with circulations falling and readership aging. Laura Fenton, Curbed, "How the ‘modern farmhouse’ look took over," 21 Nov. 2018 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 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

13 Mar 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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