Legal Definition and Related Resources of Arbitrary

Meaning of Arbitrary

Derived from mere opinion ; capricious ; unrestrained; despotic; or Discretionary . Not done, or acting according to reason or judgment ; depending on the will alone.Legally, without cause based upon the law.

Synonyms of Arbitrary


  • according to desires
  • capricious
  • contrary to reason
  • determined by no principle
  • done at pleasure
  • fanciful
  • illogical
  • independent of law
  • independent of rule
  • inji nitus
  • injudicious
  • irrational
  • libiainosus
  • nonrational
  • perverse
  • unaccountable
  • unjustified
  • unreasonable
  • unreasoned
  • without adequate determining principle
  • without consideration
  • without reason
  • without substantial cause
  • Associated Concepts: arbitrary act
  • arbitrary action
  • arbitrary and capricious
  • arbitrary classification
  • arbitrary determination
  • arbitrary standards
  • arbitrary verdict

Related Entries of Arbitrary in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Arbitrary in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Arbitrary in Historical Law

You might be interested in the historical meaning of this term. Browse or search for Arbitrary in Historical Law in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

Search for legal acronyms and/or abbreviations containing Arbitrary in the Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary.

Related Legal Terms

You might be also interested in these legal terms:

Mentioned in these terms

Abuse Of Discretion, Equal Protection Of The Laws, Laches, Licentiousness, Peremptory Challenge, Presumption.

What does Arbitrary mean in American Law?

The definition of Arbitrary in the law of the United States, as defined by the lexicographer Arthur Leff in his legal dictionary is:

An arbitrary decision or other act is one made according to whim or caprice, not according to any reasoning or good reasons. The word is often found in the conjunction “arbitrary and capricious,” used to describe an official act or decision which, though ordinarily within the power of the actor, e.g., a judge or legislature, in the particular instance might be set aside as impermissible.

In its usual locus, the reach of the term arbitrary is difficult to define with precision. For a decision may be found “arbitrary” even when it is said to be within the discretion of the decider; indeed, if it is not a discretionary decision but must be made according to certain rules, when reversed or overturned it is more likely to be described as merely “wrong” or “incorrect” than as “arbitrary.” One meaning of arbitrary in the context of discretionary act, therefore, is something like “according to improper procedures,” e.g., a judge who decides a question within his discretion by flipping a coin, or after refusing to hear one or both sides at all, might be said to have acted arbitrarily.

But some decisions may be so characterized even if [the] procedure is proper, in which case the term means “without rational support” or “without any proper reason.” The latter formulation is usually more accurate. Almost everything has some reason, e.g., a judge who decides against Jones because he hates people so named does have a reason; it’s just not a sufficient one. And a legislature which bans the sale of any condensed milk at all on the ground that it might be confused with condensed skim milk also has a “rational” explanation.

The difficult legal (and political) question wrapped up in the term “arbitrary” is really this: When is an act committed (by law or constitution) to the discretionary power of a particular official so stupid as to allow another official to undo it. Cf Dr. Bonham’s Case.


See Also

  • Law Dictionaries.
  • Administrative Procedure Act of 1946; Due Process of Law; Judicial Review.
  • Meaning of Arbitrary


    See Also

  • Capricious

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