capricious

adjective
ca·​pri·​cious | \ kə-ˈpri-shəs How to pronounce capricious (audio) , -ˈprē- How to pronounce capricious (audio) \

Definition of capricious

: governed or characterized by caprice : impulsive, unpredictable

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from capricious

capriciously adverb
capriciousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

How Long Has caprice Appeared in English?

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.

Examples of capricious in a Sentence

… every balloon voyage is a race between capricious winds and the amount of fuel on board. — Tom Morganthau, Newsweek, 29 Mar. 1999 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 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 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 employees who are at the mercy of a capricious manager The court ruled that the punishment was arbitrary and capricious.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Investors may be capricious, but the market's math is a stubborn thing. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "After soaring, then plunging, earnings are heading for a ‘new normal.’ But where is that, exactly?," 13 Oct. 2020 But a virus this capricious could thwart further efforts by the N.F.L. to return to something that feels like normal. Ben Shpigel, New York Times, "N.F.L.’s Coronavirus Cases Rise With New Positive Tests," 7 Oct. 2020 Our state level response has been more aligned with reality and much less capricious than here in Anchorage. Anchorage Daily News, "Candidate Q&A: Alaska House District 28 — James Kaufman," 3 Oct. 2020 Later, Rick and Patti would wonder at the capricious nature of life: Why such a healthy man could be brought to the brink of death, and why a man about to die could suddenly rise again. Star Tribune, "Lives, on the line," 2 Oct. 2020 In making sense of Western wildfires, total acres burned are far less important than the increasingly capricious violence of our most extreme blazes. Daniel Duane, Wired, "The West’s Infernos Are Melting Our Sense of How Fire Works," 30 Sep. 2020 The federal lawsuit argues that the Gun Control Act gives the ATF authority to regulate unfinished frames and kits, and that the agency’s 2006 decision to stop considering the parts as firearms was arbitrary and capricious. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "California Attorney General suing to force ATF to classify unfinished ‘ghost guns’ as firearms," 29 Sep. 2020 Dianne Remillard was seeing how capricious COVID-19 could be. Mark Patinkin, USA TODAY, "COVID-19 took the lives of a working-class father and his son within an hour of each other," 23 Aug. 2020 Trump’s capricious and contemptuous view of Western Europe has been central to Macron’s argument, but the French leader cannot openly challenge the United States, anchor of the West, and hope to succeed. Peter Rough, National Review, "The Bull in Europe’s China Shop," 27 Sep. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of capricious

1601, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for capricious

see caprice

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about capricious

Time Traveler for capricious

Time Traveler

The first known use of capricious was in 1601

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about capricious

Statistics for capricious

Last Updated

26 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Capricious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capricious. Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for capricious

capricious

adjective
How to pronounce capricious (audio) How to pronounce capricious (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of capricious

formal
: 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

capricious

adjective
ca·​pri·​cious | \ kə-ˈpri-shəs How to pronounce capricious (audio) \

Kids Definition of capricious

1 : moved or controlled by a sudden desire a capricious shopper
2 : likely to change suddenly capricious weather

Other Words from capricious

capriciously adverb

capricious

adjective
ca·​pri·​cious | \ kə-ˈpri-shəs, -ˈprē- How to pronounce capricious (audio) \

Legal Definition of capricious

1 : governed or characterized by impulse or whim: as
a : lacking a rational basis
b : likely to change suddenly
2 : not supported by the weight of evidence or established rules of law often used in the phrase arbitrary and capricious

Other Words from capricious

capriciously adverb
capriciousness noun

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on capricious

What made you want to look up capricious? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!