from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One that has control over another person, a group of persons, or a thing, especially.
  • noun The owner or keeper of an animal.
  • noun The owner of a slave.
  • noun One who has control over or ownership of something.
  • noun An employer.
  • noun The man who serves as the head of a household.
  • noun One who defeats another; a victor.
  • noun A man who acts out the role of the dominating partner in a sadomasochistic relationship.
  • noun The captain of a merchant ship.
  • noun One whose teachings or doctrines are accepted by followers.
  • noun Christianity Jesus.
  • noun A male teacher, schoolmaster, or tutor.
  • noun One who holds a master's degree.
  • noun An artist or performer of great and exemplary skill.
  • noun An old master.
  • noun A worker qualified to teach apprentices and carry on the craft independently.
  • noun An expert.
  • noun Used formerly as a title for a man holding a naval office ranking next below a lieutenant on a warship.
  • noun Used as a title for a man who serves as the head or presiding officer of certain societies, clubs, orders, or institutions.
  • noun Used as a title for any of various male officers having specified duties concerning the management of the British royal household.
  • noun Used as a courtesy title before the given or full name of a boy not considered old enough to be addressed as Mister.
  • noun Archaic Used as a form of address for a man; mister.
  • noun One who is appointed to assist a court in the performance of certain legal functions, such as the taking of testimony and calculating damages in complex litigation.
  • noun A man who owns a pack of hounds or is the chief officer of a hunt.
  • noun An original, such as an original document or audio recording, from which copies can be made.
  • adjective Of, relating to, or characteristic of a master.
  • adjective Principal or predominant.
  • adjective Controlling all other parts of a mechanism.
  • adjective Highly skilled or proficient.
  • adjective Being an original from which copies are made.
  • transitive verb To become very skilled in or knowledgeable about.
  • transitive verb To overcome or defeat.
  • transitive verb To produce a master copy of (an audio or video recording, for example).

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A man who has authority; a man who exercises the chief control over something or some one; a paramount ruler, governor, or director.
  • noun Specifically - A male teacher or instructor in a school, more especially the sole or head teacher; a schoolmaster.
  • noun The navigator of a ship. In the merchant marine the master is the captain or commander. In men-of-war the navigator or sailing-master formerly had the specific title of master, and was a line-officer of the lowest rank. In the British navy his title is now navigating-lieutenant or staff-commander. In the United States navy he is now ranked as lieutenant (junior grade), between eusign and lieutenant, and is called the navigator.
  • noun One who has another or others under his immediate control; a lord paramount or employer of slaves, vassals, domestic servants, workmen, or laborers, etc.; in law, specifically, one who has in his own right and by virtue of contract a legal personal authority over the services of another, such other being called his servant.
  • noun One charged with the care, direction, oversight, or control of some office, business, undertaking, or department: as, Master of the Rolls; a ship-, harbor-, or dock-master; master of the revels, ceremonies, etc.
  • noun One who has the power of controlling or using at pleasure; an owner or proprietor; a disposer.
  • noun A chief; a principal, head, or leader.
  • noun A man eminently or perfectly skilled in something, as an occupation, art, science, or pursuit; one who has disposing or controlling power of any kind by virtue of natural or acquired ability; a proficient; an adept: as, a master of language, or of the violin; a master in art.
  • noun A title of address, formerly in use, corresponding to magister (which see). Abbreviated M.
  • noun A young gentleman; a boy of the better class.
  • noun A title of dignity or office.
  • noun The title of the head of some societies or corporations: as, the grand master of the Knights of Malta; the master of Balliol College; the master of a lodge of freemasons.
  • noun Eccles., a title applied to certain residentiaries in a minster: as, master of the lady chapel, etc.
  • noun In the game of bowls, the jack.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English māgister, mægister and Old French maistre, both from Latin magister; see meg- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English mæġester, from Latin magister ("chief, teacher"). Reinforced by Old French maistre, mestre also from Latin magister.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word master.


  • What General Meade wrote in May, “We must expect disaster so long as the armies are not under one master mind, ”32 Lincoln knew perfectly well, and gladly would he have devolved the military conduct of affairs on one man could he have found that “master mind” for whom he made a painful quest during almost two years.

    Chapter IV 1917

  • We were almost entire strangers to each other; for, when I knew him at the house of my old master, it was not as a _master_, but simply as "Captain Auld," who had married old master's daughter.

    My Bondage and My Freedom Frederick Douglass 1856

  • The Colonization Society are always reminding us that the _master_ has rights as well as the slave: The Anti-Slavery Society urge us to remember that the _slave_ has rights as well as the master.

    An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans Lydia Maria Francis Child 1841

  • -- "I am master of the children of the parish," said the man; "the children are masters of their mothers, the mothers are rulers of the fathers, and consequently _I am master_ of the whole parish."

    The Jest Book The Choicest Anecdotes and Sayings Mark Lemon 1839

  • _master_ denotes a relation, that every relation has two terms, that consequently a man cannot be his own master any more than he can be his own father; and that, not owning himself, he may not destroy himself.

    Moral Philosophy Joseph Rickaby 1888

  • _master_ to teach the performers is the very point where the matter sticks, there being no such person as a master among them.

    Memoirs of the Life of the Rt. Hon. Richard Brinsley Sheridan — Volume 01 Thomas Moore 1815

  • Horn was not unfamiliar with the phrase master plan.

    HITLER’S HOLY RELICS Sidney D. Kirkpatrick 2010

  • Now, before a sensitive, feeling reader gets bent out of shape by my use of the word master in this context, I think that an explanation is in order.

    Born to Bark Stanley Coren 2010

  • His father, having grown up as the latest in a long line of sailors, earned the title master mariner when Addison was less than a year old.

    Building Beachwood, Part One « Beachwood Historical Alliance 2010

  • Horn was not unfamiliar with the phrase master plan.

    HITLER’S HOLY RELICS Sidney D. Kirkpatrick 2010


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  • The jedi master

    February 15, 2007

  • Rachel thinks she is the mastor.(not)


    February 15, 2007

  • Henry is not cool

    February 15, 2007

  • you are my leader

    February 15, 2007

  • Willaim smells

    February 15, 2007

  • 'Master it and you can have this.'

    I'm not sure what to make of these comments...

    November 29, 2007

  • Is Moore4th perhaps a 4th-grader in Ms. Moore's classroom? I'm guessing because, apparently, "Willaim smells."

    November 29, 2007

  • Any idea what level of competence might be expected in Unit 21?

    November 29, 2007

  • Well, probably a 4th-grade level... Just a guess. ;)

    It's a neat idea, though, for a teacher (or student) to use Wordie for lists of spelling words. Kinda makes me wish I *had* a list of spelling words...

    November 30, 2007

  • Wondering if this word has anything to do with mast.

    November 22, 2008

  • loving the Zelda quote. you wouldn't believe how many years it took for me to realise it takes heart containers, and not triforce pieces, to get the Master Sword.

    November 22, 2008