a. An impulsive change of mind: "I find it a relief that plagues and cancers ... are the result of the impartial—and comprehensible—forces of evolution rather than the caprices of a deity" (Olivia Judson).
b. An inclination to change one's mind impulsively: tyrants who rule by caprice.
c. A sudden, unpredictable action or change: the caprices of the wind.
2. Music A capriccio.
[French, from Italian capriccio, from caporiccio, fright, sudden start (originally, "head with the hair standing on end (resembling a hedgehog)", but later influenced by capra, goat, because of goats' frisky movements) : capo, head (from Latin caput; see kaput- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots) + riccio, curly (from Latin ēricius, hedgehog, from ēr).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.