Definition of caprice in English:



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

    ‘her caprices had made his life impossible’
    [mass noun] ‘a land where men were ruled by law and not by caprice’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And that is the difference: Nowadays our wars are so far from necessary that their cruelty and caprice still the urge to speak.’
    • ‘These are qualities that foreigners admire, accustomed as they more usually are to the caprices of their own leaders.’
    • ‘Dip in, and let yourself be governed by mood and caprice.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He was also able to draw on first-hand knowledge of the caprices of the writing life.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the air-conditioned comfort of the ship's stately lounges my whims and caprices are anticipated by the quintessential British crew.’
    • ‘Every state and government in the world is now vulnerable to the caprices and blackmails of financial markets.’
    • ‘Not by the wildest caprice of imagination was ‘a nation terrorized’ by McCarthy.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Essentially, what has happened to O'Neill is no more than life, with all its vagaries and caprices.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Even those who need emergency hospital care will be subjected to the caprices and bureaucratic diktat of the soldiers guarding the gates.’
    • ‘But now, with Morgan's depiction of her caprices and attempts to outwit him, she suddenly sounds quite normal.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Her narrative follows a loopy line traced more by mood and caprice than by causation or chronology.’
    whim, whimsy, vagary, fancy, notion, fad, freak, humour, impulse, quirk, eccentricity, foible, crotchet, urge
    fickleness, changeableness, volatility, inconstancy, capriciousness, fitfulness, unpredictability
    View synonyms
  • 2Music

    another term for capriccio
    • ‘Studies for solo violin include Paganini's brilliant 24 caprices, which provided a fertile source of inspiration for other composers.’
    • ‘Dress up like him and play one of his caprices with that wild hair.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Can anyone play Paganini's violin caprices and do them justice?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’


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