V2 Vocabulary Building Dictionary



Definition: 1. based on individual discretion and preference; 2. chosen or determined at random; 3. in law, based on the decision of a particular judge or court rather than accordance with any rule or law; 4. with unlimited power; 5. in mathematics, used to describe a constant that is not assigned a specific value

Synonyms: discretionary, optional, capricious, frivolous, erratic, dictatorial, autocratic, domineering, random

Antonyms: lenient, mild, modest, obliging

Tips: Arbitrary is derived from the Latin arbitrarius, “uncertain, depending on the judgment of an arbiter,” arbiter meaning "judge." You never know for certain how a judge will rule. Something that is arbitrary is equally uncertain. Arbitrary is often used in a negative way to describe a set of rules or a ruling by a judge that doesn't seem to follow a logical or legal thought process.

Usage Examples:

The dress code in our office is quite arbitrary; some people wear business suits, others show up in jeans and t-shirts. (discretionary, optional, random)

It was clear from his arbitrary remarks that he hadn’t made a firm decision with regard to the issue at hand. (frivolous, random)

The policy was quite arbitrary, and not too many employees paid it any attention. (discretionary)

The judge's ruling seemed arbitrary and not based on a strict interpretation of the law. (capricious, random)

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