Meaning of “arbitrary” in the English Dictionary

"arbitrary" in English

See all translations


uk /ˈɑː.bɪ.trər.i/ us /ˈɑːr.bə.trer.i/

arbitrary adjective (CHANCE)

C2 based on chance rather than being planned or based on reason:

arbitrary decision-making
Did you have a reason for choosing your destination or was it arbitrary?

More examples

adverb uk /ˌɑː.bɪˈtreə.rəl.i/ us /ˌɑːr.bəˈtrer.əl.i/

We made the decision to go to Italy quite arbitrarily.
noun [ U ] uk /ˈɑː.bɪ.trər.i.nəs/ us /ˈɑːr.bə.trer.i.nəs/

(Definition of “arbitrary” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"arbitrary" in American English

See all translations


us /ˈɑr·bɪˌtrer·i/

based on a desire or idea or chance rather than reason:

Her outfit was an arbitrary choice but was just perfect.
adverb us /ˌɑr·bəˈtreər·ə·li/

We didn’t think much about it, just arbitrarily decided to go to Italy.
noun [ U ] us /ˌɑr·bəˈtreər·i·nəs/


The arbitrariness of human nature infuriates me.

(Definition of “arbitrary” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

Help us add to the Cambridge Dictionary!

These examples are from external sources. Click on the icon to tell us if any are not OK.


On a political level, we are witnessing an increase in violence, as the reports of arbitrary arrests and the disappearances of human rights activists show.
Even the 1% value for licensed products would appear to be much too high and far too arbitrary for our liking.
The figures we are presenting here are not arbitrary or mere whims but are instead a response to the real situation as we find it.
If these arbitrary and toxicologically unjustified residue levels were observed, fruit and vegetables could no longer be produced by conventional means.
The suspension of a constitution, as mentioned in the resolution, and the constitutional court, has removed a crucial safeguard for him and others like him who fear arbitrary detention.
They deal with the issue in an arbitrary fashion, and take no account of the situation in regions where deposits are mined most intensively.
An arbitrary percentage reduction across the entire range of plant protection agents runs counter to the aims of good agricultural practice and integrated pest management.
We are in favour of reduction overall but we believe that the arbitrary number of 50 is not the key factor.
The laws must be understood and justice must be predictable and, as we know, an arbitrary approach will always result in unpredictable justice.
We also believe that the length limit of 15 metres, like any other limit, is bound to be somewhat arbitrary and therefore difficult to justify.

Blogs about "arbitrary"

by colinjmcintosh,