Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
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"Someone (a soccer player or soldier) with a boredom in a given situation, action or enterprise "

This doesn't look right! Has this article been defaced?

An interest? (rather than a boredom)

I don't feel qualified to fix this... I was here to look the term up after all. Any other opinons?

etymology of the word[edit]

Does it come from "at stake" (and that's why I have a vested interest) or from the "Wild West" when frontiers got to claim all the land they could mark with stakes? Bernburgerin 14:53, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

I disagree strongly with this definition of "stakeholder" and believe that it conflicts directly with the listed etymology. If one "holds" the "stake", one is essentially an escrow agent.

Per Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary 1: a person entrusted with the stakes of two or more persons betting against one another and charged with the duty of delivering the stakes to the winner 2: a person entrusted with the custody of property or money that is the subject of litigation or of contention between rival claimants in which the holder claims no right or property interest

I realize that many persons today use the phrase "stakeholder" in a completely contradictory manner, but I think it undercuts the value of Wiktionary to disregard the correct etymology in favor of today's incorrect usage. Compounding this problem is the fact that the Wikipedia entry for "Stakeholder (general)" points to this incorrect entry as a reference supporting its incorrect entry. As I state in the discussion for that Wikipedia entry: "I fail to see why 'Stakeholder (general)' completely turns the word on its etymological head. A 'stakeholder' is NOT 'A person or organization with a legitimate interest in a given situation, action or enterprise.' Referencing an incorrect entry in Wiktionary is not valid support. A stakeholder is merely the holder of the stake. The stakeholder does NOT have any interest in the stake."

Since posting the above, I posted additional material in the "Talk" section of the Wikipedia "Stakeholder" article. I won't copy the opinions in general, but the definitions set forth are as follows:

"A stakeholder is defined as '[a] disinterested third party who holds money or property, the right to which is disputed between two or more other parties.' Black's Law Dictionary 1440 (8th ed.2004)." Booth v. Booth, 134 P.3d 1151 at footnote 6 (Utah App.,2006).

State v. Dudley, 127 N.J.L. 127 at 129-130, 21 A.2d 209 at 210 (N.J.Sup. 1941): "The function of a stakeholder as commonly conceived, is to receive the sums wagered and hold them against the determining event, whether that event be a horse race or otherwise, and then pay them over to the winner; and the framer of the indictment apparently held that view. 2 Bouv.Law.Dict., Rawle's Third Revision, p. 3116, defines ‘stakeholder’ as ‘A third person chosen by two or more persons to keep in deposit property the right or possession of which is contested between them, and to be delivered to the one who shall establish his right to it. * * * A mere depositary for both parties of the money advanced by them respectively with a naked authority to deliver it over upon the proposed contingency.’ This definition, deduced from cited cases, is given in 27 C.J. p. 982, § 77 E 6: ‘A stakeholder is a mere depositary of both parties to a wager for the money deposited by them, respectively, with a naked authority to deliver it over on the proposed contingency; a person with whom money is deposited pending the decision of a bet or wager; one holding a fund which two or more claim adversely to each other; one who has received the funds of another or others in special deposit for a given purpose, to be paid to one party, or divided between both, or among all the parties, on the happening or not happening of some anticipated event.’"

First Nat. Bank v. Bininger, 26 N.J. Eq. 345, 1875 WL 6892 at 4 (N.J.Ch. 1875): "A stakeholder is a third person, chosen by two or more persons, to keep in deposit property, the right or possession of which is in dispute, until some one of them establishes his right to it."

To quote from the Bininger opinion, the current Wiktionary entry is "unwarrantable misuse of [a] well defined term[]".Rpclod 17:29, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

Umm, this is a collaborative project - I have no idea what all the above means and I don't really care, but if you think that our entry is wrong, then fix it or add to it, on the condition that the information you add meets or Criteria for inclusion. Conrad.Irwin 17:54, 26 March 2008 (UTC)
One bit of case law from 1941 is not all that influential, except that it might support a legal sense of the word. What is more useful is that other dictionaries define the term that way. Current usage seems to strongly favor the newer third sense. DCDuring TALK 20:50, 26 March 2008 (UTC)
One sentence in the 3rd sense was too encyclopedic, might belong in an article on interplea, interplead, interpleader, or interpleading. DCDuring TALK 15:24, 27 March 2008 (UTC) Thanks. It seems strange that citations do not include dictionary entries.--Rpclod 03:45, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

Wictionary Error[edit]

The more-recent usage of the word Stakeholder has its own etymological backing. See:

It most definitely is NOT an "antonym" usage.

The fact that dictionary creators happen to miss something because they may not go to great lengths to check EVERYTHING doesn't make them wrong, per se. But, then, merely being a dictionary contributor doesn't automatically make them the sole authority of what is RIGHT, either.

The modern usage is just as valid a usage as the more archaic and (in the U.S. at least) less common usage. We don't normally give those "bet" holders a single name. We just say "so-and-so is holding the bets." But that's because we normally call them just BETS, not 'stakes.'

But to the original question - the current usage (in the world of Program/Project Management) has to do with both "derivations" suggested. The people/organizations called Stakeholders usually have something "at risk" in the endeavor (if only their reputations) but also possess some sort of authority over resources or outcomes, similar to the way enterprising land owners/claimants had rights to the land marked out by "stakes." And THAT definition - a sharpened piece of wood - has as old a DEFINITION as the one alleged by the original creator of this Wiktionary response to the original question.


Not only does your example of "current usage" "have to do with" both derivations but, with one clarification, it can support either definition. That clarification is that there is a neutral third party who holds the "something at risk" until the outcome is known and the "winners" rewarded. As your example is currently structured, the only similarity between the two derivations is that both involve two or more parties, each of whom is affected by or has an interest in, the outcome of an event or action. Whether the parties have "some sort of authority over resources or outcomes" is irrelevant.

Consider the example of a horse race. It involves numerous bettors, each of whom has something at risk; none has any influence on the outcome. Pending the results, the race organizers act as a neutral third party or "escrow agent"; after the race ends, they pay the winners and keep the wagers of the losers. Your preferred derivation would define the bettors as the "stakeholders"; the alternative derivation would define the race organizers as the "stakeholder."

I don't know what you mean by "antonym" usage. If you mean that one definition was deliberately crafted to mean the opposite of the other, I would have to agree that it is not antonym usage. At the same time, however, I think it is entirely accurate to say that the term "stakeholder" has two mutually exclusive definitions, each with its own derivation. This is not without precedent. Other examples that come to mind are "cleave" (to stick together or to break apart) and "sanguine" (optimistic or bloody). The interesting aspect of "stakeholder" is that its two meanings can be demonstrated in the context of a single event. The parties to this event can be divided into least two, and possibly three, roles: competitors, neutral escrow agent, and -- possibly -- arbiter of the competition's outcome. Depending upon context,the term "stakeholder" can be applied to either of the first two roles.

Perhaps we can simply agree that "stakeholder" has two mutually exclusive meanings and leave it at that.