[ ahr-bi-trer-ee ]
/ ˈɑr bɪˌtrɛr i /


subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one's discretion: an arbitrary decision.
decided by a judge or arbiter rather than by a law or statute.
having unlimited power; uncontrolled or unrestricted by law; despotic; tyrannical: an arbitrary government.
based on whim or personal preference, without reason or pattern; random: This is an unusual encyclopedia, arranged by topics in a more or less arbitrary order.
Mathematics. undetermined; not assigned a specific value: an arbitrary constant.

noun, plural ar·bi·trar·ies.

arbitraries, Printing. (in Britain) peculiar (def. 9).



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Origin of arbitrary

First recorded in 1400–50; late Middle English, from Latin arbitrārius “uncertain” (i.e., depending on an arbiter's decision); see origin at arbiter, -ary

OTHER WORDS FROM arbitrary Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for arbitrary

British Dictionary definitions for arbitrary

/ (ˈɑːbɪtrərɪ) /


founded on or subject to personal whims, prejudices, etc; capricious
having only relative application or relevance; not absolute
(of a government, ruler, etc) despotic or dictatorial
maths not representing any specific valuean arbitrary constant
law (esp of a penalty or punishment) not laid down by statute; within the court's discretion

Derived forms of arbitrary

arbitrarily, adverbarbitrariness, noun

Word Origin for arbitrary

C15: from Latin arbitrārius arranged through arbitration, uncertain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012