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.
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.
arbitraries, Printing. (in Britain) peculiar (def. 9).
- ar·bi·trar·i·ly [ahr-bi-trair-uh-lee] /ˌɑr bɪˈtrɛər ə li/ adverb
- ar·bi·trar·i·ness, noun
- non·ar·bi·trar·y, adjective
- un·ar·bi·trar·y, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use arbitrary in a sentence
A skeptical person will object that the definition of lift as a force acting at a right angle to the airstream is arbitrary.
The 1,000 jobs lost due to arbitrary border restrictions are essential to the 1,000 families that somehow depended on their wages.Border Report: The Lingering Trauma of Family Separation | Maya Srikrishnan | August 31, 2020 | Voice of San Diego
I looked at that and I say that seems quite arbitrary to me, because you can get coronavirus any time of the day.Full Transcript: Tomi Lahren on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’ | Daniel Malloy | August 31, 2020 | Ozy
In March, many initially set an arbitrary reopening date of Labor Day 2020.I’m a physician and a CEO. Why I won’t bring my employees back to the office before Labor Day 2021 | matthewheimer | August 26, 2020 | Fortune
First, a principle of quantum mechanics called the no-cloning theorem says that it’s impossible to copy an arbitrary quantum state, so qubits can’t be duplicated.To live up to the hype, quantum computers must repair their error problems | Emily Conover | June 22, 2020 | Science News
The truth is that Judd is really just picking an arbitrary number since there is no script.Inside Sony’s ‘Pineapple Express 2 Drama’: Leaked Emails Reveal Fight Over Stoner Comedy Sequel | William Boot | December 21, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
The problem is that those restrictions—like jumping from a 24- to a 72-hour waiting period—seem fairly arbitrary.
Pinker is not a self-appointed enforcer of arbitrary rules, and he has little patience for purists, prigs, and pedants.Go Ahead, End With a Preposition: Grammar Rules We All Can Live With | Nick Romeo | November 3, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
Like Silver, I question the seemingly arbitrary cutoffs and weighting of the data Wang uses in his model.
Time and time again, we see women being asked to ace some arbitrary test in order to be deemed model victims.Why We're So Hard on Janay Rice and Celebrity Survivors of Abuse | Amy Zimmerman | September 15, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
The great dyke which kept out arbitrary power had been broken.The History of England from the Accession of James II. | Thomas Babington Macaulay
Wherever there is arbitrary rule, there must be necessity, on the part of the dominant classes, superiority be assumed.
However arbitrary, there are certain policies that regulate all well organized institutions and corporate bodies.
This, Williston says, is an arbitrary refusal of the court to enforce the contract that the parties made and seems unwarranted.Putnam's Handy Law Book for the Layman | Albert Sidney Bolles
Depend upon it you will always be properly opposed in such arbitrary measures.Private Letters of Edward Gibbon (1753-1794) Volume 1 (of 2) | Edward Gibbon
British Dictionary definitions for arbitrary
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 value: an arbitrary constant
law (esp of a penalty or punishment) not laid down by statute; within the court's discretion
- arbitrarily, adverb
- arbitrariness, noun
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