Advertisement - Continue reading below

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)

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.

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"."