In the following sentence, could you please suggest an alternative for "on a whim"? I think it is too informal to be written in my text.

Many young people get married on a whim, but their interests diverge after a while.

2 Answers 2


Single words that are synonymous with "on a whim" would include:

  • impulsively
  • rashly
  • impetuously

These words imply a lack of thought, and a rushed decision, perhaps motivated more by feelings than consideration.

I wouldn't say that "on a whim" is 'informal' as such, but it does sound more judgemental as it suggests you know the motivation behind someone's decision to marry rather than merely commenting on the speed of the decision. A 'whim' is sometimes described as a 'sudden', or 'passing' thought. In most places, a marriage does at least take a short amount of planning and formality, so the words mentioned above might be better as they infer a lack of thought and a rushed decision more than just a passing one.

  • 1
    I think that the nuances are slightly different. "On a whim" suggests a lack of specific motivation for a decision, whereas "impulsive" is a much stronger desire. If I was driving and saw a signpost for the beach I might decide to follow it on a whim, but the decision would only be impulsive if I saw the signpost and had a sudden strong desire to go to the beach. The suggestions here probably convey the meaning that the OP wants to get across better than the original "on a whim" does, as there is likely to be strong motivation, however ill-considered or irrational, that leads to the wedding!
    – Fiona
    Sep 28, 2021 at 9:57

I agree that I would probably not use "on a whim" in a formal document, but it's a perfectly legitimate expression and I can't justify my reluctance. You could describe a whim as a "capricious decision", but that only captures certain elements of the meaning of "on a whim"...I think you'd need a much longer expression to capture "on a whim" more fully. For example, "Many young people get married as it seems appropriate at the time and they don't give due consideration to the long-term consequences, but their interests diverge after a while.".

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