- Sports A person appointed to rule on plays, especially in baseball.
- A person appointed to settle a dispute that mediators have been unable to resolve; an arbitrator.
verbum·pired, um·pir·ing, um·pires
To act as referee for; rule or judge.
To be or act as a referee or an arbitrator.
Origin of umpire
Middle English (an) oumpere (an) umpire alteration of (a) noumpere a mediator from
Old French nonper non- non- per equal, even, paired
; see pair
. )Word History:
Had it not been for the linguistic process known as false splitting
or juncture loss,
the angry, anguished cry heard at sports events, “Kill the ump,” could have been “Kill the nump.” In the case of umpire
we can almost see false splitting in action by studying the Middle English Dictionary
entry for noumpere,
the Middle English ancestor of our word. Noumpere
comes from Old French nonper,
made up of non,
“not,” and per,
“equal.” As an impartial arbiter of a dispute between two people, the umpire is not equivalent to or a partisan of either of them. In Middle English the earliest recorded form is noumper
(about 1350); the earliest form without an n
recorded in a document dated 1440. How the n
was lost can be seen if we compare the sequence a noounpier
in a text written in 1426-1427 with the sequence an Oumper
from a text written probably around 1475. In an Oumper,
has become attached to the indefinite article, giving us an
instead of a
and, eventually, umpire
instead of numpire.
The same sort of false splitting has altered the forms of other words as well. Apron,
for example, used to be napron,
used to be nadder.
The reverse process has also occurred in the history of English: words that originally began with vowels acquired an n
from a preceding indefinite article. Nickname
comes from an obsolete phrase an eke name,
“an additional name.” Newt
comes from an eute.
A variant of the Middle English word eute
still survives as eft,