ca·​price kə-ˈprēs How to pronounce caprice (audio)
: a sudden, impulsive, and seemingly unmotivated notion or action
policy changes that seem to be motivated by nothing more than caprice
: a sudden usually unpredictable condition, change, or series of changes
the caprices of the weather
: a disposition to do things impulsively
a preference for democratic endeavor over authoritarian caprice
Choose the Right Synonym for caprice

caprice, whim, vagary, crotchet mean an irrational or unpredictable idea or desire.

caprice stresses lack of apparent motivation and suggests willfulness.

by sheer caprice she quit her job

whim implies a fantastic, capricious turn of mind or inclination.

an odd antique that was bought on a whim

vagary stresses the erratic, irresponsible character of the notion or desire.

he had been prone to strange vagaries

crotchet implies an eccentric opinion or preference.

a serious scientist equally known for his bizarre crotchets

Example Sentences

… Montana's "Durum Triangle," where the caprice of microclimates has led farmers to complain not of floods but of drought. Florence Williams, New Republic, 16 Aug. 1999 But Castro has his army and his secret police and a reputation for ferocious caprice, and so he can make a whole people dance to his dementias. Jack Beatty, Atlantic, January 1987 I'm allowing about ten days between here and the U.S.A. (that may be too much or too little, depending on the caprice of the Italian mails). James Wright, letter, 28 May 1979 the caprices of the weather Employees have complained of being at the mercy of the manager's every whim and caprice. policy changes that seem to be motivated by nothing more than caprice See More
Recent Examples on the Web That their longing becomes nearly tactile — symbolized by a survivalist caprice — confirms this brief film’s great aesthetic feat. Armond White, National Review, 12 Oct. 2022 The caprice of the weather, the mysteries of life and death, and such, have always cried out for explanations. Steve West, Sun Sentinel, 29 Sep. 2022 Other minor and major dramas are established among the characters, with Densmore’s caprice at the center. John Warner, Chicago Tribune, 24 Sep. 2022 She may at any moment by the caprice of fate be summoned to the most exalted position in the greatest Commonwealth in the world. Alison Fishburn, Longreads, 17 Sep. 2022 Frank himself often seems confused by the caprice of the world around him, which frequently punishes him for breaking its rules. Sam Thielman, The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2022 Deviation from the letter of the Rule wasn’t seen as activism or caprice, as with modern laws, but wise discretion. Timothy Farrington, WSJ, 9 Aug. 2022 Schiaparelli’s story has the sound of a Surrealist caprice. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 11 July 2022 And if geographic authenticity and visual caprice occasionally upstage the real story of its heroine? Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'caprice.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from French, going back to Middle French, borrowed from Italian capriccio "whim, fancy," earlier and medieval Tuscan caporiccio "bristling of the hair with fear, shiver of horror, shudder," probably from capo "head" (going back to Vulgar Latin *capum, re-formation of Latin caput "head") + riccio "hedgehog," going back to Latin ērīcius — more at head entry 1, urchin

Note: Italian capriccio has been a word of disputed origin, the principle issue being the peculiar semantic shift from "shiver of horror"—a meaning easily explicable from the compound's bases "head" and "hedgehog"—to "whim, caprice," and hence to various further senses. On these grounds M. Cortelazzo and P. Zolli (Dizionario etimologico della lingua italiana) consider the entire etymology uncertain, and speculate that two etyma of independent origin have somehow converged phonetically. Cortelazzo and Zolli state that the Sienese poet Cecco Angiolieri (died ca. 1312) used caporiccio in the sense "desire, wish" ("desiderio, voglia"), but in the sole occurrence of the word in the sonnets attributed to him, the meaning is actually far from clear. With this use set aside, the sense "whim, fancy" is not attested before the sixteenth century according to the Lessico etimologico italiano (vol. 9, column 1055), when it was borrowed by French. The earlier meaning "shiver of horror," first attested as a translation of Latin horror by the Florentine author Bono Giamboni (died ca. 1292), is apparently rare in Italian after the eighteenth century, but derivatives such as raccapricciarsi "to be horrified," raccapriccio "horror, disgust," are still current. The sense "whim, fancy" has suggested a connection with capra "goat," an animal stereotypically known for its sudden leaps (compare capriole). The lexicographer Francesco Alunno, in Ricchezze della lingua volgare sopra il Boccaccio (1543), notes both meanings of the word without attempting to reconcile them: "And a sudden and unreasoning inclination is called capriccio, such as seems to come in the manner of goats, which all leap if one leaps. Likewise those shudders, shivers of cold that appear at the beginning of a still doubtful fever are called capricci." ("Et Capriccio si chiama un' appetito subito et senza rasone, tale, qual pare che venga alle Capre; che se una salta tutte l'altre saltano. Item Capricci si chiamano quei ribrezzi, griccioli del gielo, che vengono nel principio della febre anchora incerta.") Whatever its etymology, caporiccio/capriccio is likely at least as old as the thirteenth century, given its rich attestation in dialects throughout the Italian peninsula, as documented in Lessico etimologico italiano.

First Known Use

1667, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of caprice was in 1667

Dictionary Entries Near caprice

Cite this Entry

“Caprice.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



ca·​price kə-ˈprēs How to pronounce caprice (audio)
: a sudden change in feeling, opinion, or action
: a disposition to change one's mind suddenly

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