• WordNet 3.6
    • adj arbitrary based on or subject to individual discretion or preference or sometimes impulse or caprice "an arbitrary decision","the arbitrary rule of a dictator","an arbitrary penalty","of arbitrary size and shape","an arbitrary choice","arbitrary division of the group into halves"
    • ***
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Arbitrary Depending on will or discretion; not governed by any fixed rules; as, an arbitrary decision; an arbitrary punishment. "It was wholly arbitrary in them to do so.""Rank pretends to fix the value of every one, and is the most arbitrary of all things."
    • Arbitrary Despotic; absolute in power; bound by no law; harsh and unforbearing; tyrannical; as, an arbitrary prince or government.
    • Arbitrary Exercised according to one's own will or caprice, and therefore conveying a notion of a tendency to abuse the possession of power. "Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused licentiousness."
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • arbitrary Not regulated by fixed rule or law; determinable as occasion arises; subject to individual will or judgment; discretionary.
    • arbitrary In law, properly determinable by the choice or pleasure of a tribunal, as distinguished from that which should be determined according to settled rules or the relative rights or equities of the parties. Thus, whether the judge will take and state an account himself, or refer it to an auditor, is a question resting in his arbitrary discretion; whether, also, a particular person is qualified to act as auditor is a question involving judicial or legal discretion.
    • arbitrary Uncontrolled by law; using or abusing unlimited power; despotic; tyrannical.
    • arbitrary Not characterized by or manifesting any overruling principle; fixed, determined, or performed at will; independent of rule or control.
    • arbitrary Ungoverned by reason; hence, capricious; uncertain; unreasonable; varying; changeful: as, an arbitrary character.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • adj Arbitrary är′bi-trar-i not bound by rules: despotic, absolute, arising from accident rather than from rule, varying, uncertain
    • ***


  • Henry James
    “The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting.”
  • Mortimer J. Adler
    Mortimer J. Adler
    “Freedom is the emancipation from the arbitrary rule of other men.”
  • Albert Einstein
    “Considered logically this concept is not identical with the totality of sense impressions referred to; but it is an arbitrary creation of the human (or animal) mind.”
  • George Jean Nathan
    “Patriotism is a arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.”
  • Abigail Adams
    Abigail Adams
    “Arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken.”
  • Arthur Schopenhauer
    “Suffering by nature or chance never seems so painful as suffering inflicted on us by the arbitrary will of another.”


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
L. arbitrarius, fr. arbiter,: cf. F. arbitraire,. See Arbiter
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
L. arbitrarius, arbiter.


In literature:

A form of government must be very arbitrary indeed, where a wise and good minister could make such a proposal to the sovereign.
"The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part D. From Elizabeth to James I." by David Hume
And in that case, they determined that the punishment was arbitrary; only that it could not extend to life.
"The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part F. From Charles II. to James II." by David Hume
They began to think there was something arbitrary in his disposition.
"The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.II. From William and Mary to George II." by Tobias Smollett
The rule of the Red King was not only grievous, it was arbitrary, capricious, cruel, and without semblance of law.
"The Rise of the Democracy" by Joseph Clayton
There is nothing here unmethodical, and therefore nothing arbitrary.
"History of Dogma, Volume 1 (of 7)" by Adolph Harnack
In Greece itself the Senate acted in the same arbitrary manner.
"A Smaller History of Rome" by William Smith and Eugene Lawrence
Elizabeth, it is true, was vindictive, arbitrary, and cruel.
"The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol. 1-20" by Various
We have no arbitrary power to give, because arbitrary power is a thing which neither any man can hold nor any man can give.
"Standard Selections" by Various
It was free to exclude from the meeting on arbitrary and even on frivolous grounds.
"A History of American Christianity" by Leonard Woolsey Bacon
These festivals are not arbitrary in date.
"Christmas" by Zona Gale

In poetry:

Each fall the children must endure together
What every child also endures alone:
Learning the alphabet, the integers,
Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff
So arbitrary, so peremptory,
That worlds invisible and visible
"September, The First Day Of School" by Howard Nemerov
How they wished an introduction to each other they had had
When on board the BALLYSHANNON! And it drove them nearly mad
To think how very friendly with each other they might get,
If it wasn't for the arbitrary rule of etiquette!
"Etiquette" by William Schwenck Gilbert
One has good reason to award the earth
The dog-like dumb devotion of the eyes;
Death, love, dishonour are predicted there,
Her arbitrary moments are the truth;
No, he was not the father of his fate;
The power of decision lay with things.
"Kairos and Logos" by W H Auden

In news:

A multitude of fading profiles is available for mobile OTA MIMO testing including: constant, Rayleigh, Rice, Nakagami, log-normal, Suzuki, pure, Doppler, flat, rounded, Gaussian, Jakes, Butterworth, and arbitrary (with external tools).
One interesting effect of these works, mostly from the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, is the way they temporarily dissolve the arbitrary, man-made boundaries that now form our favorite national park.
They express a similar, well-channeled exuberance , a playfulness that is never merely arbitrary, and a deep sense of respect for what the building should do and for whom it does that work.
He is equally critical of the letter grade system, which he considers arbitrary and unfair.
Calling the Washington Square Park renovation plan "arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and illegal," opponents of the hotly-debated project have filed a lawsuit to stop it from moving forward.
The Slaughter Solution would replace the rule of law with arbitrary one-party rule.
BPP Retreats on Arbitrary Imposition of 'Sex Offender' Rules.
Zoltan Cendes, Steven Wong, "C1 Quadratic Interpolation over Arbitrary Point Sets," IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, vol 7, no 11, pp.
Instead of cursing the snowflakes or the cold on Facebook, now we can point our frustration to an arbitrary name.
Al-Mouhamed, Steven S Seiden, " Minimization of Memory and Network Contention for Accessing Arbitrary Data Patterns in SIMD Systems," IEEE Transactions on Computers, vol 45, no.
Before we answer the question, let's define " role -player" in a really, really arbitrary manner.
As Trenton attempts to conjure up legislation to reconfigure the future for thousands of college students, faculty, employees and other stakeholders statewide -- by an arbitrary July 1 deadline.
Yes, we're making some arbitrary distinctions here.
Rick Perry accuses Obama of imposing "arbitrary" and "misguided" firearms regulations.
This type of arbitrary discrimination can't happen, not here in America.

In science:

In the remainder, we show that we can construct starting configurations with arbitrary initial arrow positions and odd number of chips at arbitrary sets of location-time pairs.
Deterministic Random Walks on the Integers
We can obtain an arbitrary finite tree in this way (but not an arbitrary finite directed tree).
Replica symmetry breaking related to a general ultrametric space I: replica matrices and functionals
Consider an arbitrary tree T (finite or infinite), such that the path in the tree between arbitrary two vertices is finite, and the number of edges incident to each of the vertices is finite.
Replica symmetry breaking related to a general ultrametric space I: replica matrices and functionals
Let D = (V , A) be an arbitrary AUSO of a simple 4-polytope, let vstart ∈ V be an arbitrary starting vertex for random edge, and let p be the random path from vstart to the global sink s defined by random edge starting at vstart .
The Random Edge Simplex Algorithm on Dual Cyclic 4-Polytopes
Let D = (V , A) be an arbitrary AUSO of a simple 4-polytope, let vstart ∈ V be an arbitrary starting vertex for random edge, and let p be the random path from vstart to the global sink s defined by random edge starting at vstart .
The Random Edge Simplex Algorithm on Dual Cyclic 4-Polytopes