adjective per·func·to·ry \ pər-ˈfəŋ(k)-t(ə-)rē \
|Updated on: 6 Jul 2018

Definition of perfunctory

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


play \pər-ˈfəŋ(k)-t(ə-)rə-lē\ adverb


play \pər-ˈfəŋ(k)-t(ə-)rē-nəs\ noun

perfunctory was our Word of the Day on 08/16/2017. Hear the podcast!

Examples of perfunctory in a Sentence

  1. The eight-time Pro Bowl player sometimes goes several weeks without agreeing to do even the most perfunctory postgame interviews. —Nunyo DemasioSports Illustrated8 Jan. 2007
  2. Convivial and self-absorbed, he talks freely about crime and crooks, with only the most perfunctory nods toward conventional morality. —Edward DolnickThe Rescue Artist2005
  3. 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 HitchensNation23-30 Aug. 1999
  4. the violinist delivered a perfunctory performance that displayed none of the passion and warmth he was once known for

Recent Examples of perfunctory from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of perfunctory

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

PERFUNCTORY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of perfunctory for English Language Learners

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

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