American English

Definition of arbitrary adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1(of an action, a decision, a rule, etc.) not seeming to be based on a reason, system, or plan and sometimes seeming unfair The choice of players for the team seemed completely arbitrary. He makes unpredictable, arbitrary decisions.
  2. 2(formal) using power without restriction and without considering other people the arbitrary powers of officials
adverb The leaders of the groups were chosen arbitrarily. The political frontiers in Africa were often arbitrarily drawn up by the old colonial powers.
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noun [uncountable] Court officials were suspected of arbitrariness and personal bias.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: arbitrary