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adjective ca·pri·cious \kə-ˈpri-shəs, -ˈprē-\

Simple Definition of capricious

  • : changing often and quickly; especially : often changing suddenly in mood or behavior

  • : not logical or reasonable : based on an idea, desire, etc., that is not possible to predict

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of capricious

  1. :  governed or characterized by caprice :  impulsive, unpredictable

capriciously adverb
capriciousness noun

Examples of capricious in a sentence

  1. … every balloon voyage is a race between capricious winds and the amount of fuel on board. —Tom Morganthau, Newsweek, 29 Mar. 1999

  2. She is capricious, however, and is said to take bribes and wantonly peddle her influence from time to time. —Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone, 15 Dec. 1994

  3. Lady Luck is a capricious mother who, as in a recurrent nightmare, always offers, never comes through, and never stops smiling. —Hugh Drummond, Boston Magazine, November 1989

  4. I don't believe in random occurrences or blind chance, though I know the patterns of this world are capricious and terribly complex. —Leslie Marmon Silko, letter, 21 Aug. 1979

  5. employees who are at the mercy of a capricious manager

  6. The court ruled that the punishment was arbitrary and capricious.

Did You Know?

The noun caprice, which first appeared in English in the mid-17th century, is a synonym of whim. Evidence shows that the adjective capricious debuted about sixty years before caprice; it's likely, however, that both words derived via French from the Italian capriccio, which originally referred not to a sudden desire but to a sudden shudder of fear. Capriccio in turn derives from the Italian capo, meaning "head," and riccio, the word for "hedgehog." Someone who shuddered in fear, therefore, was said to have a "hedgehog head"-meaning that his or her hair stood on end like the spines of a hedgehog.

Origin of capricious

(see caprice)

First Known Use: 1601

Synonym Discussion of capricious

inconstant, fickle, capricious, mercurial, unstable mean lacking firmness or steadiness (as in purpose or devotion). inconstant implies an incapacity for steadiness and an inherent tendency to change <an inconstant friend>. fickle suggests unreliability because of perverse changeability and incapacity for steadfastness <performers discover how fickle fans can be>. capricious suggests motivation by sudden whim or fancy and stresses unpredictability <an utterly capricious critic>. mercurial implies a rapid changeability in mood <made anxious by her boss's mercurial temperament>. unstable implies an incapacity for remaining in a fixed position or steady course and applies especially to a lack of emotional balance <too unstable to hold a job>.

Rhymes with capricious

CAPRICIOUS Defined for Kids


adjective ca·pri·cious \kə-ˈpri-shəs\

Definition of capricious for Students

  1. 1 :  moved or controlled by a sudden desire <a capricious shopper>

  2. 2 :  likely to change suddenly <capricious weather>

capriciously adverb

Law Dictionary


adjective ca·pri·cious \kə-ˈpri-shəs, -ˈprē-\

Legal Definition of capricious

  1. 1 :  governed or characterized by impulse or whim: as a :  lacking a rational basis b :  likely to change suddenly

  2. 2 :  not supported by the weight of evidence or established rules of law —often used in the phrase arbitrary and capricious

capriciously adverb
capriciousness noun

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