Definition of "arbitrary" []

  • Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle: stopped at the first motel we passed, an arbitrary choice. (adjective)
  • Based on or subject to individual judgment or preference: The diet imposes overall calorie limits, but daily menus are arbitrary. (adjective)
  • Established by a court or judge rather than by a specific law or statute: an arbitrary penalty. (adjective)
  • Not limited by law; despotic: the arbitrary rule of a dictator. (adjective)
  • Founded on or subject to personal whims, prejudices, etc; capricious (adjective)

American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright (c) 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

  • Having only relative application or relevance; not absolute (adjective)
  • (of a government, ruler, etc) despotic or dictatorial (adjective)
  • Not representing any specific value (adjective)
  • (esp of a penalty or punishment) not laid down by statute; within the court's discretion (adjective) (c) HarperCollins Publishers Ltd 2016

Use "arbitrary" in a sentence
  • "“But I know people that define art as anything that somebody has claimed to be art, effectively rendering the term arbitrary and useless.”"
  • "The development is contained in a report by the Obama administration, International Strategy for Cyberspace, in which the US for the first time sets out a strategy for dealing with the expansion of the internet and what it describes as "arbitrary and malicious disruption"."
  • "Ethnic tribes that still hold on to the dream of a unified Pashtun nation refuse to recognize what they call an "arbitrary line"."