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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

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, latimes.com, "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, chicagotribune.com, "Review: 'The Female Persuasion' by Meg Wolitzer," 26 Mar. 2018 The Senate session Monday is likely to be perfunctory and brief, absent any developments. Kristina Peterson, WSJ, "Partial Government Shutdown Likely to Stretch Into January," 27 Dec. 2018 The plot is twisty in a perfunctory way, the action predictably explosive, the sought-after exhilaration nonexistent. The Seattle Times, "4 movies open the day before Thanksgiving in the Seattle area," 20 Nov. 2018 To many, the jokes feel almost perfunctory now, and the overlay of references between the Trumps’ real-life actions and the stuff of horror films feels less ironic and more like a form of obligatory commentary. Aja Romano, Vox, "Melania Trump’s White House Christmas decorations have become a horror meme yet again," 27 Nov. 2018 First came the before pictures, as brightly lit and perfunctory as a mug shot. Lena Dunham, Vogue, "Lena Dunham Goes on the Ultimate Eyelash Adventure in Los Angeles," 12 Nov. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about perfunctory

Listen to Our Podcast about perfunctory

Statistics for perfunctory

Last Updated

30 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for perfunctory

The first known use of perfunctory was in 1593

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for perfunctory

perfunctory

adjective

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on perfunctory

What made you want to look up perfunctory? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

marked by a state of overwhelming emotion

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!