Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Characterized by or subject to whim; impulsive and unpredictable. See Synonyms at arbitrary.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Impulsive and unpredictable; determined by chance, impulse, or whim

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Governed or characterized by caprice; apt to change suddenly; freakish; whimsical; changeable.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Characterized by caprice; apt to change opinions suddenly, or to deviate from one's purpose; unsteady; changeable; fickle; subject to change or irregularity: as, a man of a capricious temper.
  • Synonyms Freakish, unsteady, fanciful, whimsical, fitful, crotchety, uncertain.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. determined by chance or impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason
  • adj. changeable

Etymologies

From French capricieux, from Italian capriccioso. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I have just left Augereau, who was vomiting fire and fury against what he calls your capricious proclamations.

    Recollections of the private life of Napoleon

  • Woman is less changeable, but to call her capricious is a stupid insult.

    A Prince of Bohemia

  • One of Trine's would-be selling points is its physics-based puzzles, but history has taught us by now that "physics-based" is often a euphemism for "capricious" - and that's the case here.

    Paste Magazine

  • In “Thoroughbreds and Blackguards,” Burnaugh argues that the sport’s great competitive impediment, and the temptation that renders it uniquely capricious, is the influence of gambling.

    The Sport of Kings

  • Still, most of what we ask that dogs learn can only be described as capricious and arbitrary.

    INSIDE OF A DOG

  • One thing, however, must astonish the kindly-disposed observer and vex him a little; that is, the capricious and disproportionate manner in which oaths are paid for, the inequality of the prices that M. Bonaparte places on this commodity.

    Napoleon the Little

  • Verizon's lawsuit claims the rules, which largely exempt wireless networks, are "arbitrary" and "capricious"-the same charges recently

    Ars Technica

  • Also she considered that we were masters, that is to say capricious creatures, who do not shine by their intelligence and take pleasure in imposing by fear upon clever people, upon servants, so as to shew that they are the masters, absurd tasks such as that of boiling water when there is illness in the house, of mopping the floor of my room with a damp cloth, and of leaving it at the very moment when they intended to remain in it.

    The Sweet Cheat Gone

  • Bobbie was all for May, because the book said that women born in that month were "inclined to be capricious, which is always a barrier to a happy married life"; but I plumped for February, because February women

    My Man Jeeves

  • While some book reviewers are also skillful critics (Sven Birkerts, Louis Menand, Daniel Mendelsohn) able to use the book review form to more precisely critical ends, Ozick is right to maintain that the judgments of book reviewers, even reviewers who are themselves writers, are too often "capricious," too often constrained by the formulaic structure of the book review.

    The State of Criticism

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  • Every town-gate and village taxing-house had its band of citizen-patriots, with their national muskets in a most explosive state of readiness, who stopped all comers and goers, cross-questioned them, inspected their papers, looked for their names in lists of their own, turned them back, or sent them on, or stopped them and laid them in hold, as their capricious judgment or fancy deemed best for the dawning Republic One and Indivisible, of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.

    Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

    February 24, 2013

  • You're as capricious today as a young woman who needs to get married and has no suitor.

    Maxim Gorky, "Recollections of Leo Tolstoy"

    November 19, 2011