perfunctory

adjective
per·​func·​to·​ry | \ pər-ˈfəŋ(k)-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce perfunctory (audio) \

Definition of perfunctory

1 : characterized by routine or superficiality : mechanical a perfunctory smile
2 : lacking in interest or enthusiasm

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Other Words from perfunctory

perfunctorily \ pər-​ˈfəŋ(k)-​t(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce perfunctorily (audio) \ adverb
perfunctoriness \ pər-​ˈfəŋ(k)-​t(ə-​)rē-​nəs How to pronounce perfunctoriness (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Perfunctory is a word whose origins are found entirely in Latin. First appearing in English in the late 16th century, it derives via the Late Latin perfunctorius, meaning "done in a careless or superficial manner," from the Latin perfungi, meaning "to accomplish" or "to get through with." That verb is formed by combining the prefix per-, meaning "through," with the verb fungi, meaning "to perform." "Fungi" can be found in the roots of such words as "function," "defunct," and "fungible." "Perfunctory" can describe something that is carried out with little effort or care, as in "He did a perfunctory job raking the leaves," but when used to describe a person it usually means "lacking enthusiasm."

Examples of perfunctory in a Sentence

The eight-time Pro Bowl player sometimes goes several weeks without agreeing to do even the most perfunctory postgame interviews. — Nunyo Demasio, Sports Illustrated, 8 Jan. 2007 Convivial and self-absorbed, he talks freely about crime and crooks, with only the most perfunctory nods toward conventional morality. — Edward Dolnick, The Rescue Artist, 2005 You probably don't want to know how perfunctory was the presentation of the state's evidence, how tenth-rate was the performance of the court-appointed defense or how wretched was the end. — Christopher Hitchens, Nation, 23-30 Aug. 1999 the violinist delivered a perfunctory performance that displayed none of the passion and warmth he was once known for
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Recent Examples on the Web The love triangle is awkwardly handled, leaving several questions unanswered, eventually leading to a breakup scene that feels forced and perfunctory, especially since the couple gets back together so quickly. James Ward, Detroit Free Press, "‘I Still Believe’ fails to pull heartstrings," 12 Mar. 2020 Mind you, that doesn’t stop them from sneaking through the chlorine fog in gas masks, past troops firing perfunctory bullets into the dead or dying. Nick Capozzoli, Ars Technica, "How Modern Warfare smooths over the horrors of war," 22 Nov. 2019 Also too perfunctory is the account of Edison’s role in persuading New York State to use alternating current in its first electric chair. Howard Schneider, National Review, "Thomas Edison’s Strange Genius," 7 Nov. 2019 Despite his seven years in Bulgaria, the narrator remains a self-conscious interloper, and the scene a perfunctory engagement with circumstances that might have added dimension to Greenwell’s otherwise intimately powerful work. Julian Lucas, Harper's magazine, "New Books," 6 Jan. 2020 Here is one way to get away from the perfunctory holiday ham or stuffed poultry. Mary Bergin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Your holiday feast just got more exciting with these recipes from Wisconsin chefs," 17 Dec. 2019 ProFootballTalk reported Wednesday that the letter was not just a warning shot or perfunctory legal documentation — no, the team is enforcing the fine. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Kurtenbach: Why the Raiders were right to fine Antonio Brown," 4 Sep. 2019 As is typical with Biden, the applause after an hour of stump speech and questions was affectionate yet perfunctory. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Joe Biden’s Confounding Candidacy," 25 Jan. 2020 Everything feels slapdash and half-rendered; the plot proceeds in a fashion that could only be described as perfunctory. cleveland, "In cursed ‘Dolittle,’ they could not have done less (review)," 15 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'perfunctory.' 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 perfunctory

1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for perfunctory

Late Latin perfunctorius, from Latin perfungi to accomplish, get through with, from per- through + fungi to perform — more at per-, function

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Time Traveler for perfunctory

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The first known use of perfunctory was in 1593

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Last Updated

15 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Perfunctory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perfunctory. Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.

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More Definitions for perfunctory

perfunctory

adjective
How to pronounce perfunctory (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of perfunctory

formal used to describe something that is done without energy or enthusiasm because of habit or because it is expected

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More from Merriam-Webster on perfunctory

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for perfunctory

Spanish Central: Translation of perfunctory

Nglish: Translation of perfunctory for Spanish Speakers

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