Definition of capricious in English:



  • 1Given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behaviour:

    ‘a capricious and often brutal administration’
    • ‘Ultimately, that's for the voters to decide, and recent history shows them to be a mercurial, at times capricious lot.’
    • ‘Let us say that on a rare, windy day in Waterloo, someone leaves a copy of our beloved Imprint on a bench outside, completely at the mercy of the fickle, capricious wind.’
    • ‘It is an immensely tough way of living but one which now, with over-grazing and an increasingly capricious climate, is beginning to look very vulnerable.’
    • ‘The capricious god changed Ariadne into the Corona Cressa, or Cretan Diadem, already visible in the heavens in Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne as an omen at their first meeting.’
    • ‘The true gods are fickle and capricious and care little for the affairs of men, but the piper was different.’
    • ‘It's an amusing idea, that even the harbingers of capitalism are subject to the ever-changing moods of capricious Mother Nature.’
    • ‘In any event, I reserve the right to be arbitrary and capricious in choosing which comments to delete because they cross the line.’
    • ‘It is as if we, temperamental and capricious, have been having a stormy affair with aloof, indifferent El Niño.’
    • ‘I have a strange, queasy feeling that I can never impart to him about how capricious and arbitrary a regime like this can be.’
    • ‘He can be so sweet sometimes, he's just very capricious and whimsical.’
    • ‘It is capricious and fickle, changing moods easily.’
    • ‘I miss her because she was capricious and unreliable, and because minis are the kind of car that make people smile.’
    • ‘Even those who have climbed in the Alps or the lower Himalayas, find it hard to understand the appeal of such a brutal and capricious mountain.’
    • ‘Please allow me to maintain my self-image as capricious, arbitrary and unfair.’
    • ‘Nature is regarded as the provider of bounty, but also as wild, awesome and capricious, with unpredictable catastrophes, like floods and storms at sea.’
    • ‘It will be a difficult task as the ship has become overloaded, capricious and the ocean is tempestuous.’
    • ‘While the sprites that run the weather here are capricious, their temperaments are contained within some very strict limits.’
    • ‘Luckily enough, ostriches are not capricious animals and easily adapt to the climate in Bulgaria.’
    • ‘Exhausted and in constant pain, she had to contend with vast, unfathomable personality changes that made her capricious, indecisive, impatient and intolerant.’
    • ‘The woman was so fickle-minded and capricious that Agueda often found herself confused.’
    fickle, inconstant, changeable, variable, unstable, mercurial, volatile, erratic, vacillating, irregular, inconsistent, fitful, arbitrary
    impulsive, temperamental, wild, ungovernable
    whimsical, fanciful, flighty, wayward, quirky, faddish, freakish
    unpredictable, random, chance, haphazard
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    1. 1.1 Changing according to no discernible rules; unpredictable:
      ‘a capricious climate’
      • ‘Relatively incorrupt, they brought an end to the capricious violence of the warlords who ruled in the post-Soviet vacuum.’
      • ‘Your Honour, from my perspective I am trying to understand the arbitrary and capricious argument that my learned friends are putting forward.’
      • ‘Objectively, it seems to me it's arbitrary, capricious, inconsistent.’
      • ‘In short, they're picky eaters, and their appetites are capricious and unpredictable.’
      • ‘The purpose of the provision in paragraph 18.15 is to prevent arbitrary or capricious searches.’
      • ‘In those circumstances the arrest, though subsequently found to be unlawful, could not be said to be capricious or arbitrary.’
      • ‘Having laws you're not going to enforce is an invitation for capricious and arbitrary prosecution.’
      • ‘Targeting aid resources without adequate awareness of the size of the population involved in illicit crops is capricious and arbitrary.’
      • ‘Arbitrary and capricious rather than democratic procedures prevailed.’
      • ‘To claim that God engages in this same capricious and barbaric behavior is to blaspheme God.’
      • ‘The workings of the system were entirely capricious and arbitrary.’
      • ‘To a casual observer, the conversation might have seemed haphazard and capricious: it was anything but.’
      • ‘Copies of the memorandum went to the membership of appeals committees that had found the provost's decisions to be arbitrary and capricious.’
      • ‘In using the police power in this broad way, municipalities can avoid charges of arbitrary and capricious acts.’
      • ‘But Powell's fatalistic words do convey a career military man's appreciation of the arbitrary and capricious nature of war.’
      • ‘Upon such changing moods, and seemingly capricious events, the future spiritual welfare of our nation has depended.’
      • ‘Whatever the cause, it would appear arbitrary and capricious to limit the number of years students are given to learn English.’
      • ‘Georgia, the Supreme Court temporarily ended the death penalty in America, deeming its application arbitrary and capricious.’
      • ‘In that event the basis for the exercise of power is absent, just as if it were shown that the opinion was arbitrary, capricious, irrational, or not bona fide.’
      • ‘The increasing confidence of the Irish labour force means that employees are less inclined to tolerate biased, arbitrary or capricious employer decisions.’
      unpredictable, changeable, variable, inconstant, inconsistent, uncertain, erratic, irregular, unstable, turbulent, unsteady, unsettled, unreliable, undependable, changing, ever-changing, varying, shifting, fluctuating, fluid, mutable, protean, fitful, wavering, full of ups and downs
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Early 17th century: from French capricieux, from Italian (see capriccioso).