adjective spo·rad·ic \ spə-ˈra-dik \
|Updated on: 6 Jul 2018

Definition of sporadic

: occurring occasionally, singly, or in irregular or random instances
  • sporadic protests
  • a sporadic disease


play \spə-ˈra-di-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

sporadic was our Word of the Day on 11/15/2013. Hear the podcast!

Examples of sporadic in a Sentence

  1. The law was indeed tightened, prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens on the valid assumption that removing the magnet of jobs is necessary to stem illegal immigration. But enforcement was sporadic at best, and has now virtually ceased. —Mark KrikorianNational Review26 Jan. 2004
  2. I left Madras twenty years ago. Two marriages and three children later I am a different man from the one who left. My return visits have been sporadic. But there is great delight in a homecoming. —Abraham VergheseAtlanticFebruary 2001
  3. The Bronx begins here physically, and it began here historically as well; this was the site of Jonas Bronck's farmhouse. Not much is known about him: he was a Swedish sea captain who was induced to settle the area by the Dutch West India Company. A peace treaty signed at Bronck's house ended years of sporadic but bloody skirmishes between the Dutch and the Weckquasgeeks. —Marcus LaffeyNew Yorker15 May 2000
  4. Sporadic cases of the disease were reported.

  5. sporadic loud noises kept startling everyone

Recent Examples of sporadic from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sporadic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

sporadic Has Medieval Latin Roots

Sporadic describes the distribution of something across space or time that is not frequent enough to fill an area or period, often in scattered instances or isolated outbursts (as in "sporadic applause"). The word comes from Medieval Latin sporadicus, which is itself derived from Greek sporadēn, meaning "here and there." It is also related to the Greek verb speirein ("to sow"), the ancestor from which we get our word spore (the reproductive cell of a fungus, microorganism, or some plants), hinting at the seeming scattered nature by which such cells distribute and germinate.

Origin and Etymology of sporadic

Medieval Latin sporadicus, from Greek sporadikos, from sporadēn here and there, from sporad-, sporas scattered; akin to Greek speirein to sow — more at sperm

Synonym Discussion of sporadic

infrequent, uncommon, scarce, rare, sporadic mean not common or abundant. infrequent implies occurrence at wide intervals in space or time.
    • infrequent family visits
uncommon suggests a frequency below normal expectation.
    • smallpox is now uncommon in many countries
scarce implies falling short of a standard or required abundance.
    • jobs were scarce during the Depression
rare suggests extreme scarcity or infrequency and often implies consequent high value.
    • rare first editions
sporadic implies occurrence in scattered instances or isolated outbursts.
    • sporadic cases of influenza

Medical Dictionary


adjective spo·rad·ic \ spə-ˈrad-ik \

medical Definition of sporadic

1 : occurring occasionally, singly, or in scattered instances
  • sporadic diseases
— compare endemic, epidemic 1
2 : arising or occurring randomly with no known cause
  • sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease


play \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


peaceful, happy, or prosperous

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Test Your Emoji Exceptionalism

  • test-your-emoji-exceptionalism-written-with-a-lot-of-emoji
  • What is this emoji intended to represent: 🤳
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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