desultory

adjective
des·​ul·​to·​ry | \ ˈde-səl-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce desultory (audio) , -zəl-; di-ˈsəl-t(ə-)rē, -ˈzəl- \

Definition of desultory

1 : marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose a dragged-out ordeal of … desultory shopping— Herman Wouk
2 : not connected with the main subject desultory comments
3 : disappointing in progress, performance, or quality a desultory fifth place finish a desultory wine

Other Words from desultory

desultorily \ ˌde-​səl-​ˈtȯr-​ə-​lē How to pronounce desultory (audio) \ adverb
desultoriness \ ˈde-​səl-​ˌtȯr-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce desultory (audio) \ noun

Did you know?

The Latin adjective desultorius 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, then, that someone or something desultory "jumps" from one thing to another. (Desultor and desultorius, by the way, come from the Latin verb salire, meaning "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 particular 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.

Examples of desultory in a Sentence

a desultory search for something of interest on TV a desultory discussion about the news of the day
Recent Examples on the Web So King came to the camp and fell into its desultory rhythm marked by the white noise of daytime traffic below and moan of the fog horns at night. Ruben Vivesstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2022 Bran and Peter embark on a desultory pseudo-romance that’s threatened when Peter decides to leave UCLA and transfer to Harvard. Michael Schaub, BostonGlobe.com, 19 May 2022 Yet by noon, life continued at its desultory pace as people began to stir in the dozen structures pressed against the guardrail over the 101 Freeway in downtown L.A. Los Angeles Times, 2 May 2022 The Wizrd and Save Me EP; and 2020’s one-two punch of desultory hive-bait, High Off Life and Pluto x Baby Pluto, the latter with Lil Uzi Vert. Mosi Reeves, Rolling Stone, 29 Apr. 2022 Disenchanted with the Texans after a desultory 4-12 season amid front office dysfunction, Watson requested a trade. New York Times, 11 Mar. 2022 The Ávila family moved out in 1869, and the place slipped into desultory habitation. Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2022 The prose, much of it flat or clichéd, only underscores the desultory effect. New York Times, 5 Apr. 2022 In past elections, this was a desultory phase of the campaign. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, 6 Dec. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of desultory

1581, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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The first known use of desultory was in 1581

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Last Updated

5 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Desultory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desultory. Accessed 6 Jul. 2022.

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