fit·​ful ˈfit-fəl How to pronounce fitful (audio)
obsolete : characterized by fits or paroxysms
: having an erratic or intermittent character : irregular
fitfully adverb
fitfulness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for fitful

fitful, spasmodic, convulsive mean lacking steadiness or regularity in movement.

fitful implies intermittence, a succession of starts and stops or risings and fallings.

fitful sleep

spasmodic adds to fitful the implication of rapid or violent activity alternating with inactivity.

spasmodic growth

convulsive suggests the breaking of regularity or quiet by uncontrolled movement.

convulsive shocks

Examples of fitful in a Sentence

He had a few fitful hours of sleep. Several fitful attempts at negotiation have failed.
Recent Examples on the Web Efforts since 2021 have been fitful because of policy disagreements, leadership changes, and competing priorities. Chris Miller and David Talbot, Foreign Affairs, 28 Aug. 2023 In the meantime, Gauff is providing a special kind of enjoyment to attentive fans of hers: the pleasure—absorbing, fitful, at times remarkable—of watching so promising and ambitious and captivating a player become. Gerald Marzorati, The New Yorker, 27 Aug. 2023 It was damaged in a tornado in 2019, then reopened right before a fitful COVID-pandemic shut it back down. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, 14 Aug. 2023 The promises and perils of AI have emerged as major concerns in Washington this year, but the policymaking on the matter has been fitful. Tory Newmyer, Anchorage Daily News, 27 July 2023 Since shedding her black gown in a fitful moment of onstage catharsis, Lafourcade has emerged in a pale blue cotton caftan, reborn. Sofia Andrade, Washington Post, 25 July 2023 Latin America’s last hundred years were ones of fitful economic gains, brutal dictatorships and tentative democracies, and complicated relations with the ascendant global superpower next door, the United States. Foreign Affairs, 6 Sep. 2022 Non-maternal Barbie (Robbie) towers over these fitful tykes, shadowing them like Kubrick’s black slab and inspiring violent resistance. Armond White, National Review, 19 July 2023 Former Vice President Al Gore appeared on Meet The Press last Sunday to discuss the threat of climate change and the world’s fitful efforts to build a sustainable future. Benjy Sarlin, NBC News, 27 July 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fitful.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of fitful was in 1592

Dictionary Entries Near fitful

Cite this Entry

“Fitful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


fit·​ful ˈfit-fəl How to pronounce fitful (audio)
: not regular : restless
fitful sleep
fitfully adverb
fitfulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on fitful

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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