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 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 Hopefully, washing your hands is a perfunctory and frequent a part of your daily routine. NBC News, "How to wash your hands properly, according to doctors," 18 Dec. 2019 And when bored customs officers asked you to halt your vehicle, the inquisition to which you were subjected—at least if your Saab or pickup truck bore Vermont plates—was perfunctory. Joshua Jelly-schapiro, The New Yorker, "What Are Borders For?," 27 Nov. 2019 Adam Laxalt, the former Nevada attorney general who hired VanDyke to serve as solicitor general, described Davenport’s interview as perfunctory. John Mccormack, National Review, "Smearing Lawrence VanDyke," 13 Dec. 2019 Pence and Zelensky spoke again on Sept. 18 in a call that U.S. officials described as somewhat perfunctory. Greg Miller, Washington Post, "Trump involved Pence in efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, though aides say vice president was unaware of pursuit of dirt on Bidens," 2 Oct. 2019 Pence and Zelensky spoke again on Sept. 18 in a call that U.S. officials described as somewhat perfunctory. Author: Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, Ashley Parker, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump involved Pence in efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, officials say," 2 Oct. 2019 Pence and Zelensky spoke again on Sept. 18 in a call that U.S. officials described as somewhat perfunctory. Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, chicagotribune.com, "President Donald Trump involved Vice President Mike Pence in efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, officials say," 2 Oct. 2019

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of perfunctory was in 1593

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Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Perfunctory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perfunctory. Accessed 17 Feb. 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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