What does arbitrary mean?

Definitions for arbitrary
ˈɑr bɪˌtrɛr iar·bi·tra·ry

Here are all the possible meanings and translations of the word arbitrary.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. arbitraryadjective

    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"


  1. arbitraryadjective

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

  2. arbitraryadjective

    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. arbitraryadjective

    Any and all possible.

    The equation is true for an arbitrary value of x.

  4. arbitraryadjective

    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. Etymology: From arbitrarie, arbitrarius, from arbiter

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Arbitraryadjective

    Etymology: arbitrarius, Lat.

    In vain the Tyrian queen resigns her life
    For the chaste glory of a virtuous wife,
    If lying bards may false amours rehearse,
    And blast her name with arbitrary verse. William Walsh.

    Their regal tyrants shall with blushes hide
    Their little lusts of arbitrary pride,
    Nor bear to see their vassals ty’d. Matthew Prior.

    It may be perceived, with what insecurity we ascribe effects depending on the natural period of time, unto arbitrary calculations, and such as vary at pleasure. Thomas Browne, Vulgar Err.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Arbitraryadjective

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

  2. Arbitraryadjective

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

  3. Arbitraryadjective

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

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

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Arbitrary

    är′bi-trar-i, adj. not bound by rules: despotic, absolute, arising from accident rather than from rule, varying, uncertain.—adv. Ar′bitrarily.—n. Ar′bitrariness. [L. arbitrarius, arbiter.]

British National Corpus

  1. Adjectives Frequency

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

How to pronounce arbitrary?

How to say arbitrary in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of arbitrary in Chaldean Numerology is: 7

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of arbitrary in Pythagorean Numerology is: 4

Examples of arbitrary in a Sentence

  1. William Blake:

    I am really sorry to see my countrymen trouble themselves about politics. If men were wise, the most arbitrary princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the freest government is compelled to be a tyranny. Princes appear to me to be fools. Houses of Commons and Houses of Lords appear to me to be fools; they seem to me to be something else besides human life.

  2. Rupert Colville:

    The government must end the persistent repression of dissent and the ongoing pattern of arbitrary arrests and refrain from criminalizing and attacking human rights defenders, political opponents and any other dissenting voices.

  3. Andrew Knapp:

    Vague laws lend themselves to arbitrary enforcement, which can be used in a discriminatory way.

  4. Daniel Garza:

    Republicans are committed to seeking a permanent solution to the crisis we have in America, not these arbitrary, short-term fixes.

  5. Juan Manuel:

    Annulling the legislative power with an arbitrary decision is unacceptable, this clearly destroys the most important column of any democracy: representation of the people.

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    dark brown mustelid of woodlands of Eurasia that gives off an unpleasant odor when threatened
    • A. chin-wag
    • B. sousing
    • C. foumart
    • D. couvade

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