AskDefine | Define referee

Dictionary Definition



1 (sports) the chief official (as in boxing or American football) who is expected to ensure fair play [syn: ref]
2 someone who reads manuscripts and judges their suitability for publication [syn: reviewer, reader]
3 an attorney appointed by a court to investigate and report on a case


1 be a referee or umpire in a sports competition [syn: umpire]
2 evaluate professionally a colleague's work [syn: peer review]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Referee



refer + -ee, that is, the person whom something is referred to


  • a UK /ˌɹɛf.əˈɹiː/, /"%rEf.@"ri:/
  • a US /ˌrɛfəˈriː/
  • Rhymes with: -iː


  1. An umpire or judge; the official who makes sure the rules are followed during a game
    • 'The referee kicked Jim out of the game for fighting.'
  2. A person who settles a dispute
  3. A person who writes a letter of reference for someone
    • 'Your application, along with letters from three referees, should be received by January 31.'
  4. An expert who judges the manuscript of an article or book to decide if it should be published

Related terms


sport: umpire, judge, the supervisor of a game
person who settles a dispute
person who writes a letter of reference
expert who judges a manuscript
Translations to be checked


  1. To act as a referee.
    • 'He has to referee three hockey games this weekend.'
    • 'She has to finish refereeing an article for Nature.'


to act as a referee
Translations to be checked

Extensive Definition

about refereeing in sports A referee is a person who has authority to make decisions about play in many sports. Officials in various sports are known by a variety of titles, including: referee, umpire, judge, linesman, timekeeper or touch judge.


The term referee originated in association football (soccer). Originally the team captains would consult with each other in order to resolve any dispute on the pitch. Eventually this role was delegated to an umpire. Each team would bring their own partisan umpire allowing the team captains to concentrate on the game. Later, the referee, a third "neutral" official was added, this referee would be "referred to" if the umpires could not resolve a dispute. The referee did not take his place on the pitch until 1891, when the umpires became linesmen (now assistant referees). Today, in many amateur football matches, each side will still supply their own partisan assistant referees (still commonly called club linesmen) to assist the neutral referee appointed by the governing football association.


Australian rules football

An umpire is an official in the sport of Australian rules football. Games are overseen by one to three Field Umpires, two Boundary Umpires, and two Goal Umpires.

Baseball and softball

In baseball and softball, the umpire is the person(s) charged with officiating the game. Multiple umpires—usually two, three or four, but sometimes six for championship games—are typically assigned to a game.


In international basketball and in college basketball, the referee is the lead official in a game, and is assisted by either one or two umpires. In the National Basketball Association, the lead official is referred to by the term crew chief and the two other officials are referees. All of the officials in a basketball game are generally accepted to have the same authority as the lead official and therefore they are collectively known as the officials or sometimes, misleadingly, the referees.



In cricket, the match referee is an off-field official who makes judgements concerning the reputable conduct of the game and hands out penalties for breaches of the ICC Cricket Code of Conduct. On-field decisions relevant to the play and outcome of the game itself are handled by two on-field umpires, although an off-field third umpire may help with certain decisions.


A fencing match is presided over by a referee.

Field hockey

An umpire in field hockey is a person with the authority to make decisions on a hockey field in accordance with the laws of the game. Each match is controlled by two such umpires.

Football (American and Canadian)

An American football (or Canadian football) referee is responsible for the general supervision of the game and has the final authority on all rulings. He is assisted by up to six other officials on the field. These officials are commonly referred to as "referees" but each has a title based on position and responsibilities during the game: Referee, Head Linesman, Line Judge, Umpire, Back Judge, Side Judge, and Field Judge.

Football (association)

An association football match is presided over by a referee, whom the Laws of the Game give "full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed" (Law 5). The referee is assisted by two assistant referees, and sometimes by a fourth official.

Ice hockey

Games of ice hockey are presided over by on-ice referees, who are generally assisted by on-ice linesmen. The combination of referees and linesman varies from league to league.


A lacrosse match is presided over by an onfield head referee, two onfield referees, a chief bench official (CBO), and a bench manager. Many leagues use a two or three referee system and omit the bench officials.

Mixed martial arts

Rules in mixed martial arts bouts are enforced by a referee who can give warnings and disqualifications should the rules be broken. The referee is also in charge of stopping fights when a fighter "cannot intelligently defend himself" in order to prevent him from incurring further damage, as well as making sure that submissions are released following a tapout and to pull fighters off an unconscious opponent. The referee is advised by a doctor and assistant referee who sit ringside.

Roller derby

The game of roller derby is governed by a team of up to seven referees, several of whom are also on skates. Under the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) rules, there may also be off-skate derby referees. The team is composed of a head referee, who oversees the running of the entire game and has final say in any disputes; two jammer referees who follow the two point-scoring players known as jammers, alternating the team they are scoring each period; and up to four pack referees who follow the main pack of skaters and issue and enforce penalties for fouls or infringements of the rules. Only the team captains may engage in discussions with the referees over calls made. Referees are also responsible for ensuring the skaters are correctly wearing all regulation safety equipment.


In a regatta an umpire is the on-the-water official appointed to enforce the rules of racing and to ensure safety. The umpire starts the race from a launch and follows it to its end, enuring that crews follow their proper course. If no infringements occur, the result is decided by a judge or judges on the waterside who determine the finish order of the crews.


Both codes of rugby football are controlled by an onfield referee assisted by two touch judges, and often a video referee during televised games. With non-televised games in rugby league, the referee has 2 touch judges and 2 in-goal judges to assist. The referee and the touch judges cannot be contradicted by any player, but captains may discuss calls with them. In some rugby league competitions, most notably Australia's National Rugby League, public criticism of officials by players or coaching staff can result in fines being levied against the offending club.

Touch football

Touch football/touch rugby (commonly known as "touch") has a unique refereeing concept. As in most team sports, there is an on-field referee and referees on each of the two sideline. However, in touch football, the referees may interchange, similar to players, at appropriate times. Appropriate times may include when the play has moved close enough to the sideline for the referees to swap without the interrupting the play. This may occur during a set of six or during a change of possession. Other times that referees may interchange include after the awarding of touchdowns and penalties.
Touch is also one of the few remaining sports where referees wear metal badges on their chests to represent their official level within their governing organisation. In Australia, the highest referee level is 6, the lowest being 1. In New Zealand, the highest level is 4, the lowest being 1. Prior to level 1, there is an elementary level beginners. In Europe, the highest level is 5, the lowest being 1.


In a match race and team race, an umpire is the on-the-water official appointed to directly enforce the racing rules of sailing (as opposed to fleet racing, where an off-the-water protest committee hears complaints from competitors).


A sumo match is overseen by a referee (gyōji) in the ring and five umpires (shimpan) seated around the ring. All dress in traditional Japanese clothing, with higher-ranked referees wearing elaborate silk outfits. The referee oversees the pre-match rituals and the bout itself, including ruling on the winner of the bout and the winning technique used. If one of the umpires disagrees, then all the umpires confer to determine the winner of the bout.
Tradition holds that if one of the two top ranked gyōji has his decision overturned, he is expected to tender his resignation, although the Chairman of the Japan Sumo Association usually rejects the resignation.


In tennis an umpire is an on-court official, while a referee is an off-court official.


A volleyball match is presided over by a first referee, who observes action from a stand, providing a clear view of action above the net and looking down into the court. The second referee, who assists the first referee, is at floor level on the opposite side of the net—and in front of the scorers' table. (In United States high school competition, the officials are called the referee and umpire, respectively.)

Amateur wrestling

The international styles of amateur wrestling use a three-official system in which a referee conducts the action in the center of the mat while a judge and a mat chairman remain seated and evaluate the action from their stationary vantage points.
Collegiate wrestling uses a single referee in the center of the mat, or a head referee and an assistant.

Professional wrestling

Professional wrestling referees render decisions like tap outs and pinfalls. They also communicate with wrestlers about the progress of the matches.


Referees typically wear clothing to distinguish themselves from the players. Such uniforms may be distinctive, and some traditional uniforms have come to be symbolically associated with the position (even if newer, alternative uniforms are increasingly used). Notable examples include the traditional black uniform worn by association football referees, or the vertical black and white stripes worn by referees in many North American sports.
referee in Catalan: Àrbitre
referee in Czech: Rozhodčí
referee in Danish: Dommer (sport)
referee in German: Schiedsrichter (Sport)
referee in Spanish: Árbitro (deporte)
referee in Persian: داور
referee in French: Arbitre (sport)
referee in Indonesian: Wasit
referee in Hebrew: שופט (ספורט)
referee in Lithuanian: Teisėjas (sportas)
referee in Dutch: Scheidsrechter
referee in Japanese: 審判員
referee in Norwegian: Dommer (sport)
referee in Polish: Sędzia sportowy
referee in Portuguese: Árbitro
referee in Simple English: Referee
referee in Finnish: Erotuomari
referee in Swedish: Domare (sport)
referee in Turkish: Hakem
referee in Chinese: 裁判 (體育)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

JP, Justice, act between, adjudge, adjudicate, arbiter, arbitrate, arbitrator, bargain, bencher, critic, go between, hear, his honor, his lordship, his worship, hold court, hold the scales, impartial arbitrator, indicator, intercede, intermediate, interpose, intervene, judge, judger, justice, magistrate, make terms, mediate, meet halfway, moderate, moderator, negotiate, officiate, represent, sit in judgment, step in, third party, treat with, try, umpire, unbiased observer
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