The words judge and judgment have a negative connotation in the English language. Whether one is being judged or one is judgmental in an overly critical point of view, it is equally not a fun place to be. A judgment, though, is not necessarily something to worry about, as it is actually the ability to form an opinion based on thoughts, feelings or evidence.
Modern judges and judgments are the result of 1,000 years of legal evolution. Looking back at the Anglo-Saxon trial by ordeal, where verdicts were forced to undergo painful and dangerous acts, like to pick up a red hot bar of iron or put hands in boiling water, and their innocence or guilt determined by the time needed for healing. If they were innocent, then God would send them a healing in the next couple of days. The trial by ordeal was eventually banned by William II and condemned by the Church in 1216.
And while the King remained the principal law-maker, the interpreters of that law were the judges – royal family members, clergy men, knights and sergeants.
And just as the magistrates, the word judge has been around for quite a long time now. The word was firstly introduced into Anglo – Norman and French sources, circa 12th century, to replace the previously used term deme, stemming from High German, to name a judge, arbiter. In its initial usage, the term referred to God in his role as the supreme arbiter at the Last Judgement and the capitalised form – had a Jewish historical sense of a military leader in times of crisis. Judge has a Latin origin and comes from iudicem, that constitutes of ius ‘right, law’ and the root dicere ‘to say.’
In the sense of a public official responsible for administering justice in a court of law, the word judge was mentioned for the first time in the Bible of Wycliffite circa 1384. In 1533, in the context of Henry VIII’s attempt to secure a political revolution by altering the balance of power between the Church and the State, the first strong critique against the defects of the late medieval common law and judges came out in Thomas More’s The debellacyon of Salem and Bizance.
Outside of the legal context, the word empowered everyone to give judgments as he deems necessary, whether asked or not to do so. The phrase to be the judge of someone was firstly recorded in print in 1556, in Thomas Cranmer’ Aunsw. vnto Craftie & Sophisticall Cauillation: “Let the reader be the judge, what a wonderful diversity it is”.
Naturally, we all are sophisticated judges, preaching the Nemo judex in causa sua (no one should be a judge in his own cause) but judging everyone else. According to a study, we make around 11 different judgments about a person we meet for the first time in only the first seven seconds of the meeting. And those include their intelligence, social status, education, competence and trustworthiness.