Since the murderer didn't know the victim, the detectives assumed the murder was a [...].

This is just an example, though, I'm not looking for a word for that kind of crime. Just a noun that means "something that is randomly chosen".

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    Are you looking for a noun? I would use an adjective (namely random). – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 10:06
  • janoChen, please show the research you do. You are doing your own research, aren't you? – Andrew Leach Jul 17 '15 at 10:30
  • Well, I'm asking for "something that is randomly chosen". I didn't know how to research that. Searching for "random" on Thesaurus would just yield an adjective. Not a "thing". – janoChen Jul 17 '15 at 10:47
  • @AndyT Oh, I didn't realize. I thought the "something" in the title implied that. Sorry about that. – janoChen Jul 17 '15 at 11:53
  • In the context of a murder committed by a robber it might be better to say something like "the victim did not appear to be targeted". If the killer set out to kill someone, "the victim was apparently chosen at random". – Hot Licks Jul 17 '15 at 14:29

20 Answers 20

  • happenstance (n) A chance happening or event.


  • Fortuitous (adj) Happening or produced by chance; accidental


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    A random choice is not a chance or accidental occurrence. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 10:05
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    Fortuitous is generally used to describe a measure of (good) fortune, so the context needs to be considered carefully (e.g. it doesn't work in the asker's example). – talrnu Jul 17 '15 at 15:35
  • fortunate necessarily entails good fortune. The primary sense of fortuitous does not. But you do have a point; most people would conflate these two distinct words, and would be loathe to call a murder "fortuitous". – Brian Hitchcock Jul 18 '15 at 8:40
  • This should have been the answer awarded. The OP wanted a noun, and happenstance is exactly that, it also expresses an event that is not planned or premeditated. – Mari-Lou A Jul 18 '15 at 17:18

Something chosen at random can be called arbitrary.

arbitrary (adj.) - Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system

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    "The detectives assumed the murder was an arbitrary." ? – Mitch Jul 17 '15 at 16:51
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    The title was changed. A noun was not specified when I had answered. – SomethingDark Jul 17 '15 at 20:29
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    Then you get a cookie for using the word that the sentence should be rearranged to fit. – Mazura Jul 17 '15 at 20:55
  • I suppose you could use arbitrariness as the noun form, but I think it sounds weird, personally. – SomethingDark Jul 17 '15 at 21:06

I can think of

indiscriminately - In a random manner; unsystematically:

or maybe even a less profound alternative like unselective or aimless, depending on the context

I think indiscriminately might be a better choice than arbitrary, because I believe the latter has a connotation of personal choice based on a mood. I am, however, not too sure about this and might be corrected accordingly.

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    Arbitrary can also be used without any implication of actual volition, as in mathematics (let a be an arbitrarily close to b). – oerkelens Jul 17 '15 at 8:19
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    Good one. You might also want to mention the adjective form "indiscriminate". – Brian Hitchcock Jul 18 '15 at 8:15

Randomness is the noun form of random, but it doesn't work for usage as "such and such was a randomness".

You can use it in the phrase act of randomness, which may be what you're looking for. Unfortunately I think "of randomness" is essentially just an adjective, and therefore it might not be any better than the many synonyms of random that have been given as answers.


How about:

a chance occurrence


a random act


a crime of opportunity


a shot in the the dark: a random conjecture
throw of the dice: a risky attempt to do or achieve something

If you want a noun for "something that is randomly chosen", you could use the noun form of chosen - random/arbitrary choice. Or to be precise, in probability, the result of a random experiment is called an outcome.


I think accidental can convey the 'random' aspect you are referring to:

  • Happening by chance, unintentionally, or unexpectedly. (ODO)
  • the murder was an accident, or accidental.
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    A murder is by definition a deliberate act, not an accident. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 10:05
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    @phoog - Outside of war (and war-like scenarios like gang violence) I think you will find that most murders are accidental, in that the killer did not set out with intent to kill someone. – Hot Licks Jul 17 '15 at 14:32
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    @HotLicks in US law, at least, homicide without intent is usually manslaughter. It is my understanding that other jurisdictions similarly have lesser crimes for unintentional killing. – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 14:36
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    @phoog - The thing is that if you walk into a liquor store and try to hold it up and the clerk resists and you shoot and kill him, it's murder, even if you had no intention of killing anyone when you walked in, and even if the gun did, in fact, go off accidentally in the struggle. – Hot Licks Jul 17 '15 at 14:38
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    Accident suggests lack of control or intelligent design rather than randomness. The asker wants to describe something that is intentionally chosen at random, not something that happened naturally at random. – talrnu Jul 17 '15 at 15:39

How about caprice:

a sudden, impulsive, and seemingly unmotivated notion or action

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    A caprice isn't the object that is chosen, it is the act. – Chenmunka Jul 17 '15 at 14:56

In the context of murder, a good adjective is senseless. A senseless murder is one that occurred for no particular explanatory reason. For example, if a mugger were to demand someone's wallet and the victim fought back, we could understand why he might shoot the victim. But if he shoots the victim after receiving the wallet just because he can, then that is senseless.

See senseless (meaning c)

: done or happening for no reason ; destitute of, deficient in, or contrary to sense: as

a : unconscious

b : foolish, stupid

c : meaningless


A strong word, generally left to the realm of science : "stochasticity".

Since the murderer didn't know the victim, the detectives assumed the murder was a stochasticity.

  • the quality of lacking any predictable order or plan
  • Synonyms:haphazardness, noise, randomness

The term stochastic occurs in a wide variety of professional or academic fields to describe events or systems that are unpredictable due to the influence of a random variable. The word "stochastic" comes from the Greek word στόχος (stokhos, "aim"). (wiki)


vagary /vəˈgɛər i, ˈveɪ gə ri/ noun —Dictionary.com

1.an unpredictable or erratic action, occurrence, course, or instance: the vagaries of weather; the vagaries of the economic scene.

Looking up whimsy led me to vagary.

  • I think it shares the same Latin root as vagrant, which is what the cops probably thought they were. – Mazura Jul 17 '15 at 21:32

Items (but not usually people) are sometimes referred to as sundries if they are haphazard, miscellaneous, or otherwise not important enough to refer to by name. As per the Oxford dictionaries:

sundries noun (plural sundries)

Various items not important enough to be mentioned individually: "a drugstore selling magazines, newspapers, and sundries".

sundry adjective

[ATTRIBUTIVE] Of various kinds; several: "prawn and garlic vol-au-vents and sundry other delicacies".

Source: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/sundry


Opportunistic describes crimes committed without a specific target, based on opportunities which arise, rather than being individually planned. In your case this would suggest that to commit murder was the primary goal of the crime, as opposed to a "robbery gone wrong".

In the case of murder, it's not often going to be the case that a murder is "opportunistic" unless the criminal is very depraved indeed. I believe most murders either target a particular individual the murderer have a motive for killing, or are unplanned consequences of other crimes such as burglary or robbery or kidnapping which have "gone wrong".

  • Opportunistic is not related to random in any way. – AndyT Jul 17 '15 at 10:23
  • @AndyT, I do not know why you think that!. – Ben Jul 17 '15 at 11:02
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    Because opportunistic means taking opportunities, it does not mean doing things at random. Example of a random crime: "I want to rob someone. Eenie meenie minie mo... I pick that guy!". Example of an opportunistic crime: "I'm off down the shops on my bike. Oh, that guy has left his phone on the table, let's nick it and cycle off". In this second example the guy is picked because he left his phone in an accessible place; the thief therefore used logic which is not random. – AndyT Jul 17 '15 at 11:16
  • @AndyT, I don't think you know what random means. dictionary.reference.com/browse/random Random means unpredictable, it does not mean uncaused, and it certainly doesn't require anyone to recite a rhyme or use any "random method of choosing between alternatives". An opportunistic crime will occur randomly because opportunities occur randomly. – Ben Jul 17 '15 at 11:22
  • Nice link, exactly what I've been consulting. Let's see what it says: "proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern". Why did the thief steal that guy's phone? Was there a reason? Yes, it was because he left his phone on the table. – AndyT Jul 17 '15 at 11:39

Is "a blind murder" fitting your need?


2. Lacking perception, awareness, or judgement:

2.1 Not controlled by reason:

they left in blind panic



adj, adv

  1. in a jumble


  1. a muddle

I admit it's not the perfect word for what you are describing, but it's really fun to say.



something that happens by chance http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happenstance



a situation in which events happen at the same time in a way that is not planned or expected http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coincidence


Freak occurrence (vocabulary.com)

A freak occurrence, on the other hand, is not necessarily a bad thing, but connotes something irregular or unexpected.


How about a lark or a whim?

Lark (as in "on a lark")

  1. a merry, carefree adventure; frolic; escapade.
  2. innocent or good-natured mischief; a prank.
  3. something extremely easy to accomplish, succeed in, or to obtain


  1. an odd or capricious notion or desire; a sudden or freakish fancy

  2. capricious humor

  • uncorrelated
  • independent
  • unrelated
  • nonsequitur
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    Hi Steve and welcome to ELU! Please consider adding definitions for each of these words to show why they are an acceptable choice. – Dog Lover Jul 18 '15 at 6:22


noun: Something that is not repeated or reproduced.

  • Police suspect that the murder was a one-off

It could have been someone else, somewhere else. The James Bulger murder was a one-off, and nothing like that will happen again for a long, long time. The Damilola Taylor murder was not. It could happen again next week, next month.
The Guardian

My suggestion doesn't fit neither the OP's title nor the question in the body, a one-off is not random by any stretch of the imagination, and it is not chosen, but it is a noun which expresses a unique, never-to-be-repeated event or thing.

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