ale·​a·​to·​ry ˈā-lē-ə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce aleatory (audio)
: depending on an uncertain event or contingency as to both profit and loss
an aleatory contract
: relating to luck and especially to bad luck

Did you know?

If you're the gambling type, then chances are good you've come across aleatory in your travels. Deriving from the Latin noun alea, which refers to a kind of dice game, aleatory was first used in English in the late 17th century to describe things that are dependent on uncertain odds, much like a roll of the dice. The term now describes things that occur by sheer chance or accident, such as the unlucky bounce of a golf shot or the unusual shape of an ink blot. Going a bit further, the term "aleatory music" (also called "aleatoric music" or "chance music") describes a musical composition in which certain parts are left for the performer to concoct through improvisation.

Examples of aleatory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In Dupieux’s absurdity, human behavior is not aleatory but reflects specific social and psychological realities. Armond White, National Review, 23 July 2021 Instead, arriving guests may take an aleatory breath test. Geoff Whitmore, Forbes, 18 Mar. 2021 Drawing so much from the streets, the show is almost like aleatory music in its dependence on chance; nearly every shot has the feeling of a happy accident, of something that nearly went unseen. Dan Piepenbring, The New Yorker, 25 Nov. 2020 The team is now researching perceptions of aleatory uncertainty — unknowns about the future due to randomness, indeterminacy, chance or luck. New York Times, 4 Apr. 2020 Most uncertainty is a mix of epistemic and aleatory elements. New York Times, 4 Apr. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aleatory.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin aleatorius of a gambler, from aleator gambler, from alea a dice game

First Known Use

1693, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of aleatory was in 1693


Dictionary Entries Near aleatory

Cite this Entry

“Aleatory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Legal Definition


ale·​a·​to·​ry ˈā-lē-ə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce aleatory (audio)
: depending on an uncertain event or contingency as to both profit and loss
the aleatory nature of a lawyer's contingency fee arrangement

Latin aleatorius of a gambler, from aleator gambler, dice player, from alea, a dice game

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