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adjective des·ul·to·ry \ˈde-səl-ˌtȯr-ē also -zəl-\

Simple Definition of desultory

  • : not having a plan or purpose

  • : done without serious effort

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of desultory

  1. 1 :  marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose <a dragged-out ordeal of…desultory shopping — Herman Wouk>

  2. 2 :  not connected with the main subject

  3. 3 :  disappointing in progress, performance, or quality <a desultory fifth place finish> <a desultory wine>

desultorily play \ˌde-səl-ˈtȯr-ə-lē\ adverb
desultoriness play \ˈde-səl-ˌtȯr-ē-nəs\ noun

Examples of desultory in a sentence

  1. <a desultory search for something of interest on TV>

  2. <a desultory discussion about the news of the day>

Did You Know?

The Latin adjective desultorius, the parent of desultory, was used by the ancients to refer to a circus performer (called a desultor) whose trick was to leap from horse to horse without stopping. It makes sense, therefore, that someone or something desultory "jumps" from one thing to another. (Desultor and desultorius, by the way, are derived from the Latin verb salire, which means "to leap.") A desultory conversation leaps from one topic to another and doesn't have a distinct point or direction. A desultory student skips from one subject to another without applying serious effort to any one. A desultory comment is a digressive one that jumps away from the topic at hand. And a desultory performance is one resulting from an implied lack of steady, focused effort.

Origin of desultory

Latin desultorius, literally, of a circus rider who leaps from horse to horse, from desilire to leap down, from de- + salire to leap — more at sally

First Known Use: 1581

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up desultory? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to eat gluttonously or ravenously

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