By Deane Barker

Definition: having three parts; an agreement between three parties

I got to wondering about this because it’s a relatively common term. I thought maybe it meant more than I thought it did.

Well, it doesn’t. I means exactly what I thought it did.

So, then I got to wondering why we hear this term so much, as opposed to other “-partite” terms. I searched for “bipartite,” and that exists. And so does “quadripartite.”

Then I got to thinking that you don’t hear “bipartite agreement” because that’s kind of the default. An agreement, by definition, is between at least two parties, so in that case we just say “agreement.”

If the agreement is between more than three parties, we usually characterize it some other way. A “blockbuster trade” or it becomes a “resolution” or a “multi-lateral treaty” or something.

Three parts just seems to be a natural threshold before we use another term for a multi-part thing.

Why I Looked It Up

From The Shortest History of India:

As the tripartite army began its march on Calcutta…

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