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  1. one to whom something is referred, especially for decision or settlement; arbitrator.
  2. (in certain games and sports) a judge having functions fixed by the rules of the game or sport; umpire.
  3. an authority who evaluates scientific, technical, or scholarly papers, grant proposals, or the like for the publication or funding institution to which they have been submitted.
  4. Law. a person selected by a court to take testimony in a case and return it to the court with recommendations as to the decision.
verb (used with object), ref·er·eed, ref·er·ee·ing.
  1. to preside over as referee; act as referee in.
verb (used without object), ref·er·eed, ref·er·ee·ing.
  1. to act as referee.

Origin of referee

First recorded in 1605–15; refer + -ee


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1. arbiter. See judge.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for referee


  1. a person to whom reference is made, esp for an opinion, information, or a decision
  2. the umpire or judge in any of various sports, esp football and boxing, responsible for ensuring fair play according to the rules
  3. a person who is willing to testify to the character or capabilities of someone
  4. law See Official Referee
verb -ees, -eeing or -eed
  1. to act as a referee (in); preside (over)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for referee


1620s, "person who examines patent applications" (see refer). Sporting use recorded by 1820 (specifically of baseball from 1856).


1883, originally colloquial, from referee (n.). Related: Refereed; refereeing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper