I have heard the word ombudsman many times, and enjoy the sound of the word, but never really knew the meaning of the word…until today! According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary “an ombudsman is a government official (as in Sweden or New Zealand) appointed to receive and investigate complaints made by individuals against abuses or capricious acts of public officials. More generally, “one that investigates, reports on, and helps settle complaints”.
The etymology is rather interesting… it is “borrowed from Swedish, where it means “representative,” and ultimately derives from the Old Norse words umboth (“commission”) and mathr (“man”). In the early 1800s, Sweden became the first country to appoint an independent official known as an ombudsman to investigate complaints against government officials and agencies.
Since then, other countries (such as Finland, Denmark, and New Zealand), as well as some U.S. states, have appointed similar officials. The word ombudsman was first used in English in the late 1950s; by the 1960s, it was also being used to refer to a person who reviews complaints against an organization (such as a school or hospital) or to someone who enforces standards of journalistic ethics at a newspaper.”