1. someone whose job is to make sure that players obey the rules in some sports, for example tennis, baseball, and cricket. Someone who does this in other games, such as football and rugby, is called a referee
2. someone who is asked to decide which person is right in an argument
Origin of the word
Umpire derives from the Old French word ‘nonper’, referring to a third person that mediates between two other people, from the early 14th century. Originally used in a legal sense, it was first recorded in reference to sports in the 17th century in relation to wrestling.
In modern usage, an umpire usually refers to an official that ensures the rules of a game are followed by players during a sporting event. In cricket, umpires oversee matches and wear white coats. Baseball fans will be familiar with the term umpire as one of the four officials that usually presides over a baseball game. Seated up high on a chair, a tennis umpire officiates at tennis matches. Ultimately, an umpire is responsible for deciding if players or teams are following the rules, awarding points, penalizing participants and providing impartial oversight of the competition. A comparable term, ‘referee’, is common in other sports such as rugby, basketball, boxing and football.
In a less common form, umpire can refer to a person that steps into a dispute or argument to decide which side is right. Say there was a disagreement between a son and daughter, a parent might step in as the umpire and settle the issue at hand, ideally as a neutral third party that can provide impartial judgement.
“Umpires have their own characters and their own personalities. We’re not clones. We’re not paper cut-outs. It would be a boring place if we were all exactly the same.”
“A good umpire, like a good FBI agent, is never noticed if he is doing his job.”
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.
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