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 perfunctory (audio) \ adverb
perfunctoriness \ pər-​ˈfəŋ(k)-​t(ə-​)rē-​nəs How to pronounce perfunctory (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 Later, realizing the pricing dynamics had moved in its favor, UPS began canceling some contracts that were no longer as profitable, using perfunctory exit clauses that shippers and consultants say had been rarely, if ever, exercised before. Paul Ziobro, WSJ, "UPS Boss Preaches the Power of No," 26 Feb. 2021 The tiny flags pinned on so many politician’s lapels seemed less perfunctory and more like an act of faith. Washington Post, "Democracy survived, barely," 20 Jan. 2021 Each chamber's bill now moves to the other side for votes that should be perfunctory. Sarah Rankin, Star Tribune, "Virginia House joins Senate in voting to end death penalty," 5 Feb. 2021 Maertens Aramayo said Aly’s apology in court felt perfunctory. Washington Post, "Nearly a year after a young couple was killed, a guilty plea provides few answers," 4 Jan. 2021 But only perfunctory opposition arose Thursday as the House debated its procedures. James Barragán, Dallas News, "Masks required, remote voting allowed as Texas House adopts rules for COVID-19 legislative session," 14 Jan. 2021 The convening of Congress came three days before lawmakers were set to tally electoral college votes, usually a perfunctory task. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, "COVID fatalities in U.S. top 350,000. Refuting Trump, Fauci says deaths are ‘not fake’," 3 Jan. 2021 The normally perfunctory joint session of Congress where both chambers certify the Electoral College results will be anything but, as a dozen Republican senators on Wednesday plan to object to President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "Here's where Republican senators stand on objecting to the Electoral College," 4 Jan. 2021 This means that the day’s proceedings will not be perfunctory. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "How Congressional Republicans Could Sabotage the Counting of Electoral Votes," 4 Jan. 2021

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

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Perfunctory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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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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