Words in the news: judge

Written by Liz Potter


News that a pay review body has recommended pay rises of up to 32% for judges, taking the salary of the most senior from over £180,000 p.a. to over £240,000, has aroused comment in the UK media. Such huge rises for a small group that is already very well paid stand in stark contrast with the situation of other public sector workers such as teachers, doctors and nurses, whose pay has been capped at low levels for many years. The suggested rises, designed to end a recruitment crisis which has seen top barristers preferring to remain in their very well remunerated positions rather than moving to the bench, may not be approved in full. In the meantime, the story gives us the opportunity to look at the interesting noun judge.

judge is, of course, the person whose job is to make decisions in a court of law. While the role of judges varies in different judicial systems, in all of them a judge is a person who decides, whether about the meaning of the law or about the outcome of a particular case. The second meaning of judge in Macmillan Dictionary also refers to decision-making, in this case deciding who wins a competition. More broadly, a judge is anyone who decides what the correct thing to do is when there is a disagreement: the example given for this sense refers to a referee being the sole judge of the rules that apply to a sport or game.

If we say that someone is a good or a bad judge of something or no judge of something, we are talking about whether their opinions are generally valid or not; so if someone is a good judge of character, they are usually right about what a person is really like. If we say that someone should be the judge of something, we mean that they should rely on their own opinions rather than accepting those of others. If you tell someone that you will be the judge of something, you are telling them in no uncertain terms that you do not want or need their advice.

The first, judicial meaning of the word, meanwhile, is referenced in the expression judge and jury: if you ask who made someone judge and jury in a matter of importance, you are saying that they have too much power and that it would be better if that power was shared.

Judge came into English from the Old French ‘juge’, which came from the Latin word for a judge, ‘judex’. There is no space in this post to look at the related verb judge, but you can find all its meanings and its many grammatical patterns here.

Origin: MacMillan Dictionary