Definitions for arbitraryˈɑr bɪˌtrɛr i

This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word arbitrary

Princeton's WordNetRate this definition:(0.00 / 0 votes)

  1. arbitrary(adj)

    based on or subject to individual discretion or preference or sometimes impulse or caprice

    "an arbitrary decision"; "the arbitrary rule of a dictator"; "an arbitrary penalty"; "of arbitrary size and shape"; "an arbitrary choice"; "arbitrary division of the group into halves"

WiktionaryRate this definition:(0.00 / 0 votes)

  1. arbitrary(Adjective)

    Based on individual discretion or judgment; not based on any objective distinction, perhaps even made at random.

  2. arbitrary(Adjective)

    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)

  3. arbitrary(Adjective)

    Any and all possible.

    The equation is true for an arbitrary value of x.

  4. arbitrary(Adjective)

    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)

  5. Origin: From arbitrarie, arbitrarius, from arbiter

Webster DictionaryRate this definition:(0.00 / 0 votes)

  1. Arbitrary(adj)

    depending on will or discretion; not governed by any fixed rules; as, an arbitrary decision; an arbitrary punishment

  2. Arbitrary(adj)

    exercised according to one's own will or caprice, and therefore conveying a notion of a tendency to abuse the possession of power

  3. Arbitrary(adj)

    despotic; absolute in power; bound by no law; harsh and unforbearing; tyrannical; as, an arbitrary prince or government

  4. Origin: [L. arbitrarius, fr. arbiter: cf. F. arbitraire. See Arbiter.]


  1. Arbitrariness

    Arbitrariness is the quality of being "determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle". Arbitrary decisions are not necessarily the same as random decisions. For example, during the 1973 oil crisis, Americans were allowed to purchase gasoline only on odd-numbered days if their license plate was odd, and on even-numbered days if their license plate was even. The system was well-defined and not random in its restrictions; however, since license plate numbers are completely unrelated to a person's fitness to purchase gasoline, it was still an arbitrary division of people. Similarly, schoolchildren are often organized by their surname in alphabetical order, a non-random yet still arbitrary method, at least in cases where surnames are irrelevant.

British National Corpus

  1. Adjectives Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'arbitrary' in Adjectives Frequency: #980

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