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 cursory (audio) , ˈkər-​sə-​ \ adverb
cursoriness \ ˈkərs-​rē-​nəs How to pronounce cursory (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 Even a cursory glance at the podcast charts would reveal that the bulk of popular shows tend to center around storytelling, informational, or educational experiences. Nicholas Quah, Vulture, "Does Clubhouse Mean Bad Things for Podcasting?," 16 Feb. 2021 But that cursory explanation doesn’t begin to do tofu justice. Team Basically, Bon Appétit, "What Is Tofu? Plus, So Much More Info We Can’t Fit in This Headline," 12 Feb. 2021 In the meantime, on the streets and in the stores, a cursory look at pedestrians and shoppers gave no irrefutable indication of what is sometimes considered to be Washington snow panic. Washington Post, "Gray Saturday skies make Sunday snow plausible," 7 Feb. 2021 Entire places and populations were missing, and those that were included got only a cursory look. Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, "By tracking coronavirus mutations, scientists aim to forecast the pandemic’s future," 7 Feb. 2021 Oxborrow’s deep dives into cases, beyond the cursory Wikipedia and Reddit searches, are an essential component of the podcast. Emma Fraser, Vulture, "True Crime & Cocktails Mixes, Booze, Mystery, and Pajamas," 5 Feb. 2021 This may be the first time some of us are hearing about her, but a cursory look on Twitter and TikTok will show that a growing number of young people are taking style notes from Ella Emhoff, who is in her last year of school at Parsons. Sarah Midkiff,, "Ella Emhoff Brought Brooklyn To Inauguration Day & It Was Perfect," 20 Jan. 2021 Maybe as a result, causes and protests that once might have received cursory attention took center stage. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, "Writing from the porch: Kevin Sherrington’s tranquil perch to capture a bizarre year in sports," 29 Dec. 2020 The book’s coverage of the spy trial should have been a high point but is instead cursory and anticlimactic. Bertrand M. Patenaude, WSJ, "‘The Nazi Spy Ring in America’ Review: Hoover Was Furious," 8 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for cursory

Time Traveler

The first known use of cursory was in 1601

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Statistics for cursory

Last Updated

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cursory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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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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