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Definition of arbitrary


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ar·bi·trar·y  audio  (ärb-trr) KEY 

ADJECTIVE:
  1. Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle: stopped at the first motel we passed, an arbitrary choice.
  2. Based on or subject to individual judgment or preference: The diet imposes overall calorie limits, but daily menus are arbitrary.
  3. Established by a court or judge rather than by a specific law or statute: an arbitrary penalty.
  4. Not limited by law; despotic: the arbitrary rule of a dictator.

ETYMOLOGY:
Middle English arbitrarie, from Latin arbitrrius, from arbiter, arbitr-, arbiter ; see arbiter

OTHER FORMS:
arbi·trari·ly  (-trâr-l) KEY (Adverb), arbi·trari·ness(Noun)

SYNONYMS:
arbitrary, capricious, whimsical

These adjectives mean determined by or arising from whim or caprice rather than judgment or reason: an arbitrary decision; a capricious refusal; a whimsical remark.


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