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