The Meaning of Capricious: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of capricious? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word capricious, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word capricious mean?

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and Collins English Dictionary state that the word capricious is an adjective that means something that changes unexpectedly or on a whim. A person could be capricious, which would mean that they act on impulse and frequently have sudden unpredictable changes. Many things can behave in a capricious way, including authoritarian rulers, capricious weather, the mercy of a capricious manager, a capricious refusal, capricious fate, capricious decisions made by a court, a man of a capricious temper, stringent rulers with an irregularity to their decisions like a mayor, the capricious tastes of children, capricious environmental changes like freakish weather, a capricious short supply of goods, a capricious malevolent spirit like a thing of shadows, a capricious animal’s migration, and more. Capricious is three syllables – ca-pri-cious, and the pronunciation of capricious is kəˈprɪʃəs. 

There are many languages that also contain words that mean capricious. You may notice that some of these translations of capricious from Word Sense look and sound similar to the word capricious. These are called cognates. Cognates are often formed when two words in different languages have the same root or language of origin. 

  •  Breton: froudennek‎
  •  Russian: капризный‎ (masc.)
  •  Irish: meonúil‎
  •  Danish: uberegnelig‎, uforudsigbar‎/uforutsigbar‎
  •  Lithuanian: įnoringas‎
  •  Dutch: grillig‎, wispelturig‎
  •  Polish: nagły‎ (masc.), kapryśny‎
  •  Icelandic: duttlungasamur‎ (masc.), mislyndur‎ (masc.), kenjóttur‎ (masc.), dyntóttur‎ (masc.), duttlungafullur‎ (masc.)
  •  Persian: دمدمی‌مزاج‎ (damdami-mezâj)
  •  Romanian: capricios‎
  •  French: capricieux‎
  •  Bulgarian: капризен‎, непостоянен‎, непредвидим‎
  •  Thai: ตามอำเภอใจ‎ (tāmxảp̣hexcı)
  •  Hungarian: szeszélyes‎
  •  German: kapriziös‎, launenhaft‎, unberechenbar‎
  •  Japanese: 気紛れ‎ (kimagure)
  •  Portuguese: impulsivo‎, imprevisível‎, caprichoso‎
  •  Indonesian: sulit diduga, licin‎, licik‎
  •  Spanish: caprichoso‎, antojadizo‎
  •  Swedish: oberäknelig‎, oförutsägbar‎
  •  Esperanto: kapricema‎
  •  Norwegian: uberegnelig‎, uforutsigbar‎
  •  Turkish: kaprisli‎

How can the word capricious be used in a sentence?

The word capricious can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definitions. You can also try making flashcards or a quiz in order to test your knowledge of the definitions of different English words. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are several examples to get you started.

Mariamne, a woman high up in the church’s hierarchy, stated that the first allegiance of a Catholic was to the example of Christ as a reminder not to follow fickle priests with capricious sudden starts. Her darlings would not be the victim of whimsical persecutions.

The student at Princeton University was capricious about choosing his major. If he did not decide by the following semester, he would receive severe punishment and may be required to complete an additional year of schooling.

The economist preferred laissez-faire economics rather than the capricious, oppressive policies he thought were currently in place. Some disagreed with him and felt laissez-faire economics promoted unfair actions. They preferred regulation and legal protection, and a closer analysis shows they were both right in certain ways.

What are synonyms and antonyms of capricious?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word capricious. These are considered synonyms, which are words that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself or if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word capricious is provided by Power Thesaurus. 

  •  hot and cold
  •  irresolute
  •  chancy
  •  changeful
  •  odd
  •  arbitrary
  •  volatile
  •  impulsive
  •  cranky
  •  unforeseeable
  •  indecisive
  •  pixilated
  •  fluctuant
  •  whimsy
  •  unstable
  •  changing
  •  excitable
  •  fleeting
  •  wayward
  •  careless
  •  inconsistent
  •  unsystematic
  •  irrational
  •  spasmodic
  •  fluctuating
  •  wanton
  •  haphazard
  •  commutative
  •  giddy
  •  unsteady
  •  mercurial
  •  instable
  •  moody
  •  inconstant
  •  eccentric
  •  unpredictable
  •  irregular
  •  untrustworthy
  •  fanciful
  •  fickle
  •  supererogative
  •  vacillating
  •  erratic
  •  sporadic
  •  temperamental
  •  crazy
  •  humorsome
  •  variable
  •  desultory
  •  fitful
  •  transient
  •  random
  •  nonuniform
  •  freakish
  •  undecided
  •  crotchety
  •  skittish
  •  unorganized
  •  aimless
  •  changeable
  •  queer
  •  faithless
  •  easygoing
  •  unsettled
  •  vagarious
  •  flaky
  •  spastic
  •  uneven
  •  reversible
  •  frivolous
  •  varying
  •  wavering
  •  undependable
  •  irresponsible
  •  unreliable
  •  fluid
  •  maggoty
  •  reasonless
  •  revocable
  •  timid
  •  effervescent
  •  quirky
  •  fly-by-night
  •  discretionary
  •  kinky
  •  protean
  •  shifting
  •  mutable
  •  fantastical
  •  whimsical
  •  blowing hot and cold
  •  crank
  •  flighty
  •  motiveless
  •  uncertain
  •  scatterbrained
  •  fantastic
  •  emotional
  •  chameleonic
  •  yo-yo

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word capricious. These opposite words are considered antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you want to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word capricious is also provided by Power Thesaurus. 

  •  equitable
  •  invariable
  •  loyal
  •  normal
  •  abiding
  •  stationary
  •  immutable
  •  consistent
  •  constant
  •  faithful
  •  unchanging
  •  final
  •  sensible
  •  unalterable
  •  effective
  •  humble
  •  predictable
  •  formal
  •  hard-and-fast
  •  uniform
  •  unchangeable
  •  hard
  •  equable
  •  steadfast
  •  command
  •  fixed
  •  set
  •  reasonable
  •  persistent
  •  determined
  •  unfussy
  •  incorruptible
  •  reliable
  •  binding
  •  unvarying
  •  steady
  •  even
  •  settled
  •  enduring
  •  changeless
  •  staid
  •  general
  •  sober-minded
  •  stable
  •  firmly established
  •  dependable
  •  correct
  •  flat
  •  equal
  •  certain

What is the origin of the word capricious?

According to Etymonline, the word capricious has been used since c16 Middle English and comes from the French capricieux meaning whimsical. This comes from the Italian capriccioso, from the Latin capriccio. The Italian capo means “head,” and riccio is the word for “hedgehog.” Therefore, someone who is capricious is a “hedgehog head.” The suffixes ly and ness can be added to the end of capricious to make the related noun and adverb capriciously (adv.) and capriciousness/caprice (n.).

Overall, the word capricious means fickle or frequently changing, like something that is determined on impulse rather than necessity or reason, i.e. indicative of caprice. This word is Latin and Italian in origin.


  1. capricious: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Capricious synonyms – 1 240 Words and Phrases for Capricious | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Capricious antonyms – 612 Opposites of Capricious | Power Thesaurus 
  4. capricious | Origin and meaning of capricious | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Capricious definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary