General English

  • verb to become skilled at something


  • noun captain of a cargo ship
  • noun a skilled worker, qualified to train apprentices


  • adjective used to describe the main or most important device or person in a system
  • adjective used to describe the most up-to-date and correct file
  • verb to learn and understand a language or process


  • That which controls something else. For example, a loran master station or a master switch.
  • A reference standard, such as the frequency generated by an atomic clock.
  • An original from which copies can be made. For instance, a precise workpiece utilized to make others.

Information & Library Science

  • noun the original document from which copies are made


  • noun an official in the Queen’s Bench Division or Chancery Division of the High Court whose work is to examine and decide on preliminary matters before trial

Media Studies

  • noun an original copy of something, e.g. a recording tape from which other copies can be made


  • verb to become highly competent in a skill or acquire a complete understanding of some process

Origin & History of “master”

The Latin word for ‘master, chief’ was magister (which is generally assumed to have been based on the root of Latin magis ‘more’ and magnus ‘big’, source of English magnify, magnitude, etc). Its more obvious English descendants include magistrate and magisterial, and indeed English originally acquired magister itself in the 10th century in the form mægister, but over the years (partly under the influence of Old French maistre) this developed to master.

The feminine counterpart mistress (14th c.) was borrowed from Old French maistresse, a form maintained in English for some time. The alteration of mais- to mis- began in the 15th century, due probably to the weakly-stressed use of the word as a title (a phenomenon also responsible for the emergence of mister (16th c.) from master). The abbreviated miss followed in the 17th century.