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[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.
capricious; unreasonable; unsupported:
an arbitrary demand for payment.
Mathematics. undetermined; not assigned a specific value:
an arbitrary constant.
noun, plural arbitraries.
arbitraries, Printing. (in Britain) peculiar (def 9).
Origin of arbitrary
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin arbitrārius uncertain (i.e., depending on an arbiter's decision). See arbiter, -ary
Related forms
[ahr-bi-trer-uh-lee, ahr-bi-trair-] /ˈɑr bɪˌtrɛr ə li, ˌɑr bɪˈtrɛər-/ (Show IPA),
arbitrariness, noun
nonarbitrarily, adverb
nonarbitrariness, noun
nonarbitrary, adjective
unarbitrarily, adverb
unarbitrary, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for arbitrariness
  • It would reveal an underlying order to the seeming arbitrariness of nature.
  • And this arbitrariness also relates to our testing of intelligence.
  • The process is fraught with arbitrariness, internecine politics, etcetera.
  • But as the desperate reach for some larger meaning begins, the sheer arbitrariness of his approach is laid bare.
  • Given that one of the author's themes is the arbitrariness of lines on a map, that is appropriate.
  • The illdefined measures, the arbitrariness and the lack of selection dynamics is really rather aggravating.
  • The fundamental arbitrariness of beliefs should teach us to be tolerant.
  • Triage works when it addresses the arbitrariness of war and the brutal nature of war reporting.
  • But on land the arbitrariness of political geography becomes swiftly apparent.
  • Art based on the arbitrariness of chance appealed to the dadaists, who believed that rationalism had failed to prevent the war.
British Dictionary definitions for arbitrariness


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
Derived Forms
arbitrarily, adverb
arbitrariness, noun
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for arbitrariness



early 15c., "deciding by one's own discretion," from Old French arbitraire (14c.) or directly from Latin arbitrarius "depending on the will, uncertain," from arbiter (see arbiter). The original meaning gradually descended to "capricious" and "despotic" (1640s). Related: Arbitrarily; arbitrariness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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