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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The Supreme Court last week ruled against Trump's efforts to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as well, finding its attempts capricious and arbitrary. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Democrats whisper ‘Biden landslide’," 22 June 2020 Most private sector employees in the U.S. work under what is known as at-will employment contracts, which give their boss the arbitrary and capricious ability to can them at any moment and for any reason. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "At-Will Employment Is the Real Cancel Culture," 17 June 2020 Group allegiance is fluid, and the distribution of power capricious. Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic, "The Man Who Sacked Rome," 9 June 2020 The other circuit is China’s vast and growing financial system with its controls on capital, censorship and capricious enforcement of contracts. The Economist, "Hong Kong’s uncertain future Can Hong Kong remain a global financial centre?," 6 June 2020 In these painstaking sheets, capricious or perverse, steeped in powder blue and misty rose, Lequeu proved that architecture can be an erotic art, in which buildings get confused for bodies and vice versa. New York Times, "18 Art Exhibitions (and 1 Architectural Wonder) in N.Y.C. Right Now," 12 Mar. 2020 Having established a career before entering medical school can also be a hedge against the capricious nature of medical training. Monya De, STAT, "Why medical school should start at age 28," 17 Feb. 2020 Between pollution, overuse and global warming—which appears to be making the monsoons more capricious and slightly less generous—India is fast approaching a water crisis. The Economist, "Three challengesEnvironmental, educational and administrative gridlock threaten India’s future," 24 Oct. 2019 The Department of Health and Human Services acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in approving Arkansas’s plan, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Friday. ... Brent Kendall, WSJ, "Appeals Court Rejects Trump Administration’s Approval of Work Requirements for Medicaid," 14 Feb. 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.

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First Known Use of capricious

1601, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for capricious

see caprice

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Time Traveler for capricious

Time Traveler

The first known use of capricious was in 1601

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Last Updated

28 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Capricious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for capricious


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

English Language Learners 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


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


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

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