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

Other Words from perfunctory

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

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Perfunctory is a word whose origins are found entirely in Latin. It first appeared in English in the late 16th century and is derived from the Late Latin perfunctorius, meaning "done in a careless or superficial manner." (Perfunctorius was also borrowed for the synonymous, and now archaic, English adjective perfunctorious at around the same time.) Perfunctorius comes from the earlier Latin perfunctus, a past participle of 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.

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
Recent Examples on the Web Unlike her contemporary Megan Thee Stallion, whose fine-but-not-more-than-that set felt perfunctory, Doja’s was totally ready for prime time, with guests Tyga and Rico Nasty less the highlights and more paying respect to their new queen. Jeff Miller, Variety, 18 Apr. 2022 Like a pile of simple, low-level tasks that had ended up on her desk: two hundred perfunctory notices that hadn’t been sent to the federal register, the daily log of official government actions. Lydia Depillis, ProPublica, 31 Mar. 2022 Then, as if out of nowhere, a big double chorus, accompanied by an orchestra with timpani thumping, announces a grand Hosanna that lasts no more than 45 seconds for a dazzling but startlingly perfunctory blessing. Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 6 Apr. 2022 Normally these veto letters are perfunctory, a short note, heavy on legal jargon explaining why the bill was rejected. Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Mar. 2022 Watching those assists, though, a lot of them were kind of perfunctory assists: dribble hand-offs, swinging the ball to a player to initiate offense, an outlet pass in transition. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 22 Mar. 2022 Every time Wright cuts loose again, adding in twirling dances on a Sicilian rock fort, the film comes alive, but Bennett and Harrison’s perfunctory chemistry is tougher to get excited about. David Sims, The Atlantic, 28 Jan. 2022 Nuru spoke little at the federal hearing, other than to respond to perfunctory questions posed to him by U.S. District Judge William Orrick over video conference. Megan Cassidy, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 Jan. 2022 The commission held one perfunctory meeting in October without even considering, much less approving a map before map-making authority reverted to the state legislature. Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland, 29 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of perfunctory was in 1593

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Last Updated

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Perfunctory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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