Share this entry

Share this page

arbitrary

Line breaks: ar¦bi|trary
Pronunciation: /ˈɑːbɪt(rə)ri
 
/

Definition of arbitrary in English:

adjective

1Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system: an arbitrary decision
More example sentences
  • The numbering of years is a cultural artifact based on some rather arbitrary decisions made along the way.
  • I prefer to have my laws built on reason rather than arbitrary morality.
  • This numbering system is an arbitrary designation based on small amino acid sequence differences.
Synonyms
capricious, whimsical, random, chance, erratic, unpredictable, inconsistent, wild, hit-or-miss, haphazard, casual;
unmotivated, motiveless, unreasoned, unreasonable, unsupported, irrational, illogical, groundless, unjustifiable, unjustified, wanton;
discretionary, personal, subjective
2(Of power or a ruling body) unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority: a country under arbitrary government
More example sentences
  • These kings have not unlimited or arbitrary power, and the generals do more by example than by authority.
  • By the time of the Revolution, the standing army had become a symbol of repressive authority and arbitrary rule.
  • Freedom from arbitrary power is a great good - but so is the avoidance of anarchy.
Synonyms
3 Mathematics (Of a constant or other quantity) of unspecified value.
Example sentences
  • In contemporary frameworks, the rule of generalization invokes a singular term, the arbitrary constant introduced into the text.
  • How you can tell whether a binary number of arbitrary size is divisible by 10 without looking at the whole number?
  • He defined differential operators of arbitrary order D t.

Origin

late Middle English (in the sense 'dependent on one's will or pleasure, discretionary'): from Latin arbitrarius, from arbiter 'judge, supreme ruler', perhaps influenced by French arbitraire.

Derivatives

arbitrarily

1
adverb
Example sentences
  • This series of protests clearly did not occur arbitrarily or randomly.
  • Anyone who falls within this date, decided arbitrarily without any logic, is promised the moon.
  • Judgement is not being exercised by the users as they surf the net: it is being exercised arbitrarily by filtering software.

arbitrariness

2
noun
Example sentences
  • African territorial boundaries are however fraught with difficulties because of the arbitrariness with which they were drawn by the colonial authorities.
  • Bulgaria will not tolerate political arbitrariness against the defendant medics.
  • The race itself - a 1-meter dash - pokes fun at the sheer arbitrariness of modern athletic contests.

Words that rhyme with arbitrary

registrarylibrary

Definition of arbitrary in:

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day tenebrous
Pronunciation: ˈtɛnɪbrəs
adjective
dark; shadowy or obscure