spo·​rad·​ic | \ spə-ˈra-dik How to pronounce sporadic (audio) \

Definition of sporadic

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

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.

Examples of sporadic in a Sentence

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 Krikorian, National Review, 26 Jan. 2004 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 Verghese, Atlantic, February 2001 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 Laffey, New Yorker, 15 May 2000 Sporadic cases of the disease were reported. sporadic loud noises kept startling everyone
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Recent Examples on the Web During the end his five-year run with Dallas, Linehan was oft-criticized for an inability to get the most out of the Cowboys’ talent, including predictable play-calling and sporadic use of quarterback Dak Prescott’s ability to run. Dallas News, "Reports: Ex-Cowboys OC Scott Linehan lands job on LSU staff," 10 Feb. 2020 Weekends in Hong Kong are now characterized by sporadic and unpredictable street battles. Megan K. Stack, The New Yorker, "Joshua Wong’s Long Campaign for the Future of Hong Kong," 23 Oct. 2019 The winner inherits a North African country struggling to create jobs, revive tourism and overcome sporadic extremist violence — but proud of its still-budding democracy. Bouazza Ben Bouazza, SFChronicle.com, "Tunisia polls show conservative professor wins election," 13 Oct. 2019 The winner of the topsy-turvy election inherits a North African country struggling to create jobs, revive tourism and overcome sporadic extremist violence — but proud of its still-budding democracy. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Tunisia polls suggest conservative professor wins election," 13 Oct. 2019 Amid ongoing debate over the Civil Rights Act in Washington, Cotton led 217 marchers through the streets and past the city's old slave market, where the demonstrators were met by jeers, howling police dogs and sporadic violence. Harrison Smith, chicagotribune.com, "Dorothy Cotton, civil rights leader and confidante to Martin Luther King Jr., dies at 88," 12 June 2018 For a variety of reasons, one of which was an occasional lack of attention to details, Miller was sporadic for the first half of the season. Brad Biggs, chicagotribune.com, "Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts on the Bears’ 24-20 win over the Lions," 28 Nov. 2019 Wilder says that Vessel’s paranormal activity is sporadic, so don’t expect your cocktail to be served by de Pontalba herself. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "The Unbelievable Story of the New Orleans Restaurant in a Haunted Old Church," 1 Oct. 2019 Chances were sporadic throughout the game, but the deadlock was finally broken in the 68th minute when Piątek converted a penalty, conceded when Koray Gunter handled the ball, to give Marco Giampaolo's side all three points. SI.com, "Verona 0-1 AC Milan: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Piątek Penalty Earns Rossoneri Fortuitous Win," 15 Sep. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of sporadic

circa 1689, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for 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

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Time Traveler for sporadic

Time Traveler

The first known use of sporadic was circa 1689

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Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sporadic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sporadic. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for sporadic


spo·​rad·​ic | \ spə-ˈrad-ik How to pronounce sporadic (audio) \

Medical Definition of sporadic

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

Other Words from sporadic

sporadically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce sporadically (audio) \ adverb

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