[ ahr-bi-trey-shuhn ]
/ ˌɑr bɪˈtreɪ ʃən /
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the hearing and determining of a dispute or the settling of differences between parties by a person or persons chosen or agreed to by them: Rather than risk a long strike, the union and management agreed to arbitration.
International Law. the application of judicial methods to the settlement of international disputes.
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Origin of arbitration

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Latin arbitrātiōn- (stem of arbitrātiō ), equivalent to arbitrāt(us) (see arbitrate) + -iōn- noun suffix; see -ion

synonym study for arbitration

1. See mediation.

OTHER WORDS FROM arbitration


arbitration , mediation (see synonym study at mediation)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does arbitration mean?

Arbitration is a process in which two parties in a dispute use an independent, impartial third party to settle the dispute, often by making a decision that they both agree to.

For a process to be considered arbitration, it must involve an impartial third party, which can be a single person or a team of people. This person or team is called an arbitrator. To act as this arbitrator is to arbitrate. Arbitrate can also mean to engage in arbitration, as in If we can’t come to an agreement, we may need to arbitrate.

The term arbitration is especially used in the context of negotiations between businesses and labor unions. When the two sides can’t agree and negotiations are unproductive, they may seek to pursue arbitration by bringing in an arbitrator.

An arbitration process in which the arbitrator’s decision must be accepted by both parties is sometimes called binding arbitration—meaning the arbitrator’s decision is final and legally binding.

Example: After weeks of negotiations stalled and resulted in an impasse, the two sides agreed to enter arbitration.

Where does arbitration come from?

The first records of the word arbitration come from the 1300s. It ultimately comes from the Latin verb arbitrāri, meaning “to give judgment.”

Arbitration is typically used in a more specific way than the word mediation. Mediation generally refers to a process in which an impartial third party (called a mediator) helps parties to settle a dispute or create agreement by acting as an intermediary. This can happen in the workplace or simply among friends, for example. In contrast, arbitration typically refers to a more formal form of mediation—often one that happens in a legal context. In this way, an arbitrator is a kind of mediator and arbitrating is a form of mediating.

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How is arbitration used in real life?

Arbitration is most commonly used in the context of labor disputes.

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True or False? 

The word arbitration typically refers to a process in which two sides come to an agreement by themselves.

How to use arbitration in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for arbitration

/ (ˌɑːbɪˈtreɪʃən) /

law the hearing and determination of a dispute, esp an industrial dispute, by an impartial referee selected or agreed upon by the parties concerned
international law the procedure laid down for the settlement of international disputes
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

Cultural definitions for arbitration


The settling of disputes (especially labor disputes) between two parties by an impartial third party, whose decision the contending parties agree to accept. Arbitration is often used to resolve conflict diplomatically to prevent a more serious confrontation.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.