Arbitrary meaning

ärbĭ-trĕrē
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.

adjective
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Based on or subject to individual judgment or preference.

The diet imposes overall calorie limits, but daily menus are arbitrary.

adjective
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Not fixed by rules, but left to one's judgment or choice; discretionary.

Arbitrary decision, arbitrary judgment.

adjective
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Based on one's preference, notion, whim, etc.; capricious.

Young children and their arbitrary rules for games.

adjective
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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.
adjective
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Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle.

Stopped at the first motel we passed, an arbitrary choice.

adjective
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(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.

adjective
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Absolute; despotic; completely unreasonable; lacking any rational basis. This type of decision is often called arbitrary and capricious.
adjective
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Absolute; despotic.
adjective
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Varying. Inconsistent. For example, many technical concepts, programming language commands and programming calls (APIs) have arbitrary names that were chosen without being carefully thought out. See naming fiascos.
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Anything arbitrary, such as an arithmetical value or a fee.
noun
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Relating to a decision made by a court or legislature that lacks a grounding in law or fact.

An arbitrary penalty.

adjective
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Not limited by law; despotic.

The arbitrary rule of a dictator.

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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)

adjective
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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)

adjective
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(mathematics) Any and all possible.

The equation is true for an arbitrary value of x.

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Origin of arbitrary

  • Middle English arbitrarie from Latin arbitrārius from arbiter arbitr- arbiter arbiter

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

  • From Middle English arbitrarie, Latin arbitrarius (“arbitrary, uncertain”), from arbiter (“witness, on-looker, listener, judge, overseer”)

    From Wiktionary