- Arbitrary is defined as something that is determined by judgment or whim and not for any specific reason or rule.
- An example of an arbitrary decision would be a decision to go to the beach, just because you feel like it.
- An example of arbitrary behavior would be getting mad at someone even when they haven't done anything wrong.
- not fixed by rules, but left to one's judgment or choice; discretionary: arbitrary decision, arbitrary judgment
- based on one's preference, notion, whim, etc.; capricious: young children and their arbitrary rules for games
- absolute; despotic
Origin of arbitraryClassical Latin arbitrarius ; from arbiter, arbiter
- Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle: stopped at the first motel we passed, an arbitrary choice.
- Based on or subject to individual judgment or preference: The diet imposes overall calorie limits, but daily menus are arbitrary.
- Law Relating to a decision made by a court or legislature that lacks a grounding in law or fact: an arbitrary penalty.
- Not limited by law; despotic: the arbitrary rule of a dictator.
Origin of arbitraryMiddle English arbitrarie, from Latin arbitrārius, from arbiter, arbitr-, arbiter; see arbiter.
(comparative more arbitrary, superlative most arbitrary)
- (usually of a decision) Based on individual discretion or judgment; not based on any objective distinction, perhaps even made at random.
- Benjamin Franklin's designation of "positive" and "negative" to different charges was arbitrary. In fact, electrons flow in the opposite direction to conventional current.
- The decision to use 18 years as the legal age of adulthood was arbitrary, as both age 17 and 19 were reasonable alternatives.
- Determined by impulse rather than reason; heavy-handed.
- "The Russian trials were Stalin's purges, with which he attempted to consolidate his power. Like most people in the West, I believed these show trials to be the arbitrary acts of a cruel dictator." (Max Born, Letters to Einstein)
- (mathematics) Any and all possible.
- The equation is true for an arbitrary value of x.
- Determined by independent arbiter.
- To secure food safety, there should first be a national standard to arbitrarily state what is wholesome and what is not; second, the final buyer should know exactly what he is purchasing. (The World's Work ...: a history of our time)
- Anything arbitrary, such as an arithmetical value or a fee.
arbitrary - Legal Definition
- Determined or founded on individual discretion, especially when based on one’s opinion, judgment, or prejudice, rather than on fixed rules, procedures, or law. See also abuse of discretion.
- Absolute; despotic; completely unreasonable; lacking any rational basis. This type of decision is often called arbitrary and capricious.