cur·​so·​ry | \ ˈkərs-rē How to pronounce cursory (audio) , ˈkər-sə-\

Definition of cursory

: rapidly and often superficially performed or produced : hasty a cursory glance Only a cursory inspection of the building's electrical wiring was done.

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Other Words from cursory

cursorily \ ˈkərs-​rə-​lē How to pronounce cursorily (audio) , ˈkər-​sə-​ \ adverb
cursoriness \ ˈkərs-​rē-​nəs How to pronounce cursoriness (audio) , ˈkər-​sə-​ \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for cursory

superficial, shallow, cursory mean lacking in depth or solidity. superficial implies a concern only with surface aspects or obvious features. a superficial analysis of the problem shallow is more generally derogatory in implying lack of depth in knowledge, reasoning, emotions, or character. a light, shallow, and frivolous review cursory suggests a lack of thoroughness or a neglect of details. gave the letter only a cursory reading

What Is the Difference Between cursory,superficial, and shallow?

Cursory and its synonyms "superficial" and "shallow" all mean "lacking in depth or solidity" - but these words are not used in exactly the same way in all cases. "Cursory," which comes from the Latin verb currere ("to run"), implies speed and stresses a lack of attention to detail. While "cursory" suggests a lack of thoroughness, "superficial" implies a concern only with surface aspects or obvious features. An analysis of a problem might be labeled "superficial" if it considers only the obvious and fails to dig deeper into the issue. "Shallow" is more generally derogatory in implying lack of depth in knowledge, reasoning, emotions, or character, as in "insensitive and shallow comments."

Examples of cursory in a Sentence

Only a cursory inspection of the building's electrical wiring was done. The mayor gave a cursory glance at the report. Even the most cursory look at the organization's records shows problems.
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Recent Examples on the Web

From a cursory watch, the movie plays as a classic A.I. apocalypse, rise-of-the-machines flick. Kevin Dupzyk, Popular Mechanics, "How 'Ex Machina' Foresaw the Weaponization of Data," 16 Jan. 2019 Even a cursory glance at the dust jackets of Ferrante’s books reveals that the story continues to follow the two women into adulthood and old age. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "HBO’s My Brilliant Friend adaptation is a knockout," 18 Nov. 2018 Just a cursory glance at Mirren's résumé shows her commitment to portraying complex women. Caitlin Brody, Glamour, "Helen Mirren Is Done With Roles That Make Women 'Feel Shitty'," 20 Sep. 2018 As the years rolled on, Apple quietly retired the 11-inch Macbook Air, keeping its 13-inch brother on life support with cursory spec bumps. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Apple's New Macs Are the Ones You've Been Waiting on For Years," 30 Oct. 2018 More than a cursory glance of the squad bears him out. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Belgium’s Blueprint, Croatia’s Chaos, and the Murky Path to World Cup Glory," 10 July 2018 Neither does O’Toole give more than cursory attention to Wilson’s religious views, which always framed his sense of the ethical. Michael Kazin, New York Times, "Woodrow Wilson Achieved a Lot. So Why Is He So Scorned?," 22 June 2018 So many colors in such a harsh and, at cursory glance, seemingly relatively dull and even lifeless landscape. Shannon Tompkins, Houston Chronicle, "For hunters, South Texas colors a feast for the senses," 3 May 2018 Similarly, in three dozen false arrest lawsuits, Americans caught in the ICE dragnet alleged that officers took them into custody on the basis of cursory computer searches. Joel Rubin,, "ICE held an American man in custody for 1,273 days. He’s not the only one who had to prove his citizenship," 27 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cursory.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cursory

1601, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cursory

borrowed from Medieval Latin cursōrius "of running, swift" (Late Latin in nominal derivatives, as cursōria "shoe for running"), adjectival derivative of Latin cursor "runner" — more at cursor

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Dictionary Entries near cursory






cursus honorum


Statistics for cursory

Last Updated

2 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for cursory

The first known use of cursory was in 1601

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More Definitions for cursory



English Language Learners Definition of cursory

formal + often disapproving : done or made quickly


cur·​so·​ry | \ ˈkərs-rē How to pronounce cursory (audio) , ˈkər-sə-rē\

Kids Definition of cursory

: done or made quickly a cursory reply

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More from Merriam-Webster on cursory

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cursory

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cursory

Spanish Central: Translation of cursory

Nglish: Translation of cursory for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cursory for Arabic Speakers

Comments on cursory

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


to reflect, repel, echo, or resound

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