Definition of caprice in English:



  • 1A sudden and unaccountable change of mood or behaviour.

    ‘the caprices of the electorate’
    mass noun ‘a land where men were ruled by law and not by caprice’
    • ‘Essentially, what has happened to O'Neill is no more than life, with all its vagaries and caprices.’
    • ‘The recent practice of using foreign laws as bases for judicial decisions about American laws likewise turns law into the caprices John Stuart Mill feared more than he feared bad laws.’
    • ‘Unless you live in Spain, it is difficult to count the layers of irony stacked up alongside that idea, after 103 years in which the caprice of human judgement would appear to have rather favoured the famous team in white.’
    • ‘Dip in, and let yourself be governed by mood and caprice.’
    • ‘He was also able to draw on first-hand knowledge of the caprices of the writing life.’
    • ‘These are qualities that foreigners admire, accustomed as they more usually are to the caprices of their own leaders.’
    • ‘It is not an inanimate thing, like a house, to be pulled down or enlarged or structurally altered at the caprice of the tenant or owner; it is a living thing.’
    • ‘In our modern world, after all, power rarely lies hidden behind, say, Roman flat or the caprice of royal edict, at least not in the colonizing countries.’
    • ‘The San Andreas last ruptured in 1906, and in doing so all but destroyed the city of San Francisco - the last time that a great American city was wrecked by a caprice of nature.’
    • ‘It was an odd caprice of fate that an actor who would have preferred doing classical texts made his fame and fortune in something based on a comic book.’
    • ‘In the air-conditioned comfort of the ship's stately lounges my whims and caprices are anticipated by the quintessential British crew.’
    • ‘Philosophers advise self-reliance, but whether the vagaries of science or the caprices of the gods, the ways of healing are just too complex for most people to manage without help.’
    • ‘Every state and government in the world is now vulnerable to the caprices and blackmails of financial markets.’
    • ‘But that might be less upsetting to witness than the scene here in Addis, where uncomplaining Ethiopians submit humbly to the bitter caprice of clinical selection.’
    • ‘But the spirit that endures the mere cruelties and caprices of an established despot is the spirit of an ancient and settled and probably stiffened society, not the spirit of a new one.’
    • ‘And that is the difference: Nowadays our wars are so far from necessary that their cruelty and caprice still the urge to speak.’
    • ‘Her narrative follows a loopy line traced more by mood and caprice than by causation or chronology.’
    • ‘But now, with Morgan's depiction of her caprices and attempts to outwit him, she suddenly sounds quite normal.’
    • ‘Not by the wildest caprice of imagination was ‘a nation terrorized’ by McCarthy.’
    • ‘Even those who need emergency hospital care will be subjected to the caprices and bureaucratic diktat of the soldiers guarding the gates.’
    whim, whimsy, vagary, fancy, notion, fad, freak, humour, impulse, quirk, eccentricity, foible, crotchet, urge
    fickleness, changeableness, volatility, inconstancy, capriciousness, fitfulness, unpredictability
    View synonyms
  • 2Music

    ‘the caprice was divided into a theme and eleven variations’
    another term for capriccio
    • ‘Paganini's 24th caprice for solo violin, itself a variation on an original theme, was creatively diversified by Brahms, Liszt, Szymanowski and, most lyrically, Rachmaninov.’
    • ‘Dress up like him and play one of his caprices with that wild hair.’
    • ‘I was feeling the exhaustion keenly - but not enough to make a complete ass of myself during choir, which inched by like a violist playing Paganini caprices.’
    • ‘Dubost had herself conceived the ballet as a musical caprice and had given the ten leaves of her fan to ten different composers asking each of them to compose a single dance number.’
    • ‘Can anyone play Paganini's violin caprices and do them justice?’
    • ‘Studies for solo violin include Paganini's brilliant 24 caprices, which provided a fertile source of inspiration for other composers.’


Mid 17th century: from French, from Italian (see capriccio).