late 14c., from Old French arbitre or directly from Latin arbiter "one who goes somewhere (as witness or judge)," in classical Latin used of spectators and eye-witnesses, in law, "he who hears and decides a case, a judge, umpire, mediator;" from ad- "to" (see ad-) + baetere "to come, go." The specific sense of "one chosen by two disputing parties to decide the matter" is from 1540s. The earliest form of the word attested in English is the fem. noun arbitress (mid-14c.) "a woman who settles disputes."