None of the online dictionaries I have consulted - Langenscheidt, leo.org, Collins, verben.de, dict.cc - give me confidence in their recommended translations of "arbitrator". An arbitrator is different from a mediator. Arbitrators act as private judges and issue OUR decision, usually legally binding, about the parties dispute; mediators work to get the parties to reach their own agreement. Nor is an arbitrator the same as an umpire or referee (sports or otherwise) or an arbiter - we hold quasi-judicial hearings, usually take evidence/testimony, and decide. Some of these dictionary sites and others appear to assume that mediators, umpires, and arbitrators are identical functions.

To avoid the reaction "Oh, Fußball!" I have resorted to "Nein, eine private Richterin." The dictionaries offer "Schiedsrichterin", "Schiedsfrau", "Schlichterin","Unparteiische Schiedsrichterin", "Vermittlerin". Which is closest to the American labor or commercial ARBITRATOR? Personally I like Schiedsrichterin with its reference to judging.

  • Since you are asking about the legal function, shouldn't this be a question for law SE? Hint: have a look at Gemeindliches Schiedswesen
    – ccprog
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 23:33
  • @planetmaker: to the contrary, "Schiedsrichter" is the correct term, as the Wikipedia article i quoted in my answer explains.
    – bakunin
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 7:15
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    "Arbitrators issue OUR decision about their dispute" – what? Whose decision about whose dispute?
    – DonHolgo
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 10:32
  • 3
    Finally having read the actual question (and not just the title): In casual conversation, "Mitglied eines (privaten) Schiedsgerichts" should avoid any confusion with sports arbiters.
    – chaosflaws
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 13:34
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    In some areas an Ombudsfrau/Ombudsmann can issue decisions that are binding for the complainee (the complainer can still opt to go to court), if the industry in question allows for it and the value of the complaint does not exceed a certain limit. Commented May 31, 2023 at 22:29

3 Answers 3


The institution is usually called "Schiedsgericht", the process "Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit" or "Schiedsverfahren" (see i.e. here: Wikipedia-Link). The persons manning this process are - at least in Wikipedia - addressed as "Schiedsrichter". The words meaning is not limited to "umpire" or "referee" at all. In fact it contains "Richter", which means "judge".

"Schlichtung" in the context of law is a different device which is AFAIK called "conciliation" in English. The german Wikipedia explains the difference between "mediation", "conciliation" and "arbitration" quite succinctly, at least in the humble opinion of a non-lawyer like me.

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    In a context where the difference between a mediator, an arbitrator and a referee is important and understood, I would assume using Arbitrator as a German word should work as well and be understood.
    – quarague
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 8:27
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    @quarague: this might well be the case, but since the differences between these words have legal ramifications and I am not a lawyer I refrain from dabbling in legalese and stay with what sources (-> wikipedia) say. I suppose the authors there are at least more competent in this respect than I am.
    – bakunin
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 8:33
  • Linguee samples support this: linguee.com/english-german/… - Schiedsrichter, Schiedsgericht, Schiedsstelle, should all at least be understood correctly in context. Some samples are from legal texts (eg EUR-Lex). Makes sense to me as a native speaker (not a lawyer, though).
    – chaosflaws
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 13:31

Would it be possible to call yourself just "Arbitrator" as a Latin, not English word? The correct designation is indeed "Schiedsrichter", but the first reaction of most is to be thinking about a professional football referee.

  • This is - technically - a new question, not an answer to the present one. If you want to get an answer to this feel free to click "Ask a Question", reference this thread in your question and wait for answers. In advance: yes, "Arbitrator" is a possible word for "Schiedsrichter" in that context.
    – bakunin
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 13:05

You probably mean a 'Schöffen' a voluntary judge without formal education in jurisdiction, but whose verdict is juridical valid.


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    No, a Schöffe is not the same as a Schiedsrichter (arbitrator), see bakunin's answer. Commented May 31, 2023 at 13:27
  • '"Schöffen" is definitely not what I am looking for - I am hired and paid by the disputants, not a government official at all, and I have been selected for my education and formal expertise in workplace law and relations. "Schöffen" seems closer to an American "justice of the peace" (although limited to criminal courts, that website indicates).
    – ExDC
    Commented Jun 1, 2023 at 3:50

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