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

In fact, the final concerts are entirely Mozart, but there’s little danger of the orchestra taking a perfunctory approach to familiar fare, if Friday evening’s concert is any indication. Rob Hubbard, Twin Cities, "Review: Let the SPCO send you into summer with memorable Mozart," 8 June 2019 In a perfunctory conversation, the two touched on subjects like his process and legacy, overcoming the stigma of being a celebrity artist and the importance of arts funding in public schools. Jordan Riefe, The Hollywood Reporter, "Elton John Lyricist Bernie Taupin Opens Art Exhibit in Beverly Hills," 7 June 2019 But what wasn't predictable was the incredibly anticlimactic, perfunctory way that Dany went out, being stabbed through the heart by Jon in the middle of a tender embrace with almost no meaningful final dialogue whatsoever. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Game of Thrones Fans Have a Lot of Feelings About Daenerys Targaryen's Ending," 20 May 2019 Furthermore, The Daily Beast this weekend gave a detailed account of how NBC dodged Curry’s public statements about Lauer prior to releasing its report — only making a perfunctory call to her from an NBC lawyer. Brian Flood, Fox News, "NBC honchos hope to replace embattled news boss Andy Lack after multiple scandals," 14 May 2018 And a lot of the very perfunctory romantic subplots in superhero movies feel ripped directly from the rom-com playbook. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Why romantic comedies matter," 29 Aug. 2018 Connolly’s use of hit period tunes to accompany the film’s succession of years can feel a bit perfunctory and on-the-nose. Gary Goldstein,, "Overly reverent bio-pic 'Gotti' strands a solid John Travolta performance in less-than-epic drama," 15 June 2018 As nearly two hours of strictly perfunctory, procedural business wrapped up, Black asked to address the body. Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, "Va. state senator who visited Assad defends Syrian president in General Assembly," 12 Apr. 2018 Moreover, the Zee and Faith chapters feel somewhat perfunctory, with long stretches of exposition, so that years of change whoosh by on generalizations. Amy Gentry,, "Review: 'The Female Persuasion' by Meg Wolitzer," 26 Mar. 2018

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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Statistics for perfunctory

Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for perfunctory

The first known use of perfunctory was in 1593

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More Definitions for perfunctory



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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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for perfunctory

Spanish Central: Translation of perfunctory

Nglish: Translation of perfunctory for Spanish Speakers

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showing courage and determination

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