The influence of size and geometrical shape on the optical properties of randomly oriented metallic nanorods is investigated using the discrete dipole approximation (DDA). Our calculations provide a benchmark for an accurate characterisation of nanorod suspensions by frequently used optical spectroscopic techniques. Our DDA results confirm the longitudinal plasmon resonance to be primarily affected by the nanorod aspect ratio, and also verify that the quasi-static (dipole) approximation for ellipsoidal particles is only valid for very small sizes. For prolate ellipsoidal and cylindrical nanorods with an identical aspect ratio, the latter exhibit a longitudinal resonance at significantly longer wavelengths. The importance of phase retardation and multipole contributions for larger nanorod dimensions is discussed. Also, we investigate the influence on the optical spectra of electron surface scattering, which arises from the limited size of the nanorods in comparison to the electron mean free path.