spo·rad·ic | \spə-ˈra-dik \

Definition of sporadic 

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

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Other Words from sporadic

sporadically \spə-ˈra-di-k(ə-)lē \ adverb

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

Nkurunziza’s bid for another term three years ago -- which opponents said violated peace accords -- spurred initial protests that have to this day been followed by a crackdown and sporadic militant attacks. Samuel Gebre, Bloomberg.com, "Burundi Vote Likely to Extend Leader's Rule, Stoke Violence," 16 May 2018 The devourer of young adult and coming-of-age novels wanted more than her group’s sporadic get-togethers could deliver. Haley Velasco, WSJ, "Too Busy for a Book Club? Join an Online Version," 11 July 2018 Meanwhile, the less fortunate struggle with dwindling public water supplies, hoping sporadic flows will fill their 150-gallon (560-liter) plastic storage tanks fitted with buzzing electric pumps. Scott Smith, Fox News, "Venezuela's wealthy beat water crisis drilling private wells," 26 June 2018 The creative liberties, however, quickly begin feeling less and less tethered to reality, yielding sporadic but diminishing bouts of just-okay fun that ultimately don't leave much of a mark, as the idea lacks the heft to sustain a whole movie. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Tag' has moments but doesn't leave a mark," 14 June 2018 Some patients with sporadic symptoms live in constant fear that the more debilitating ones will come back or that the symptoms will get worse over time. Rafal Tokarz, Health.com, "The Lyme Disease Complication You Don't Know About—But Should," 31 May 2018 After sporadic thunderstorms crashed a brilliant and sunny Saturday, more dark clouds rolled into the Delaware Valley and down the Shore. Juliana Feliciano Reyes, Philly.com, "Flash floods, thunderstorms expected going into Memorial Day," 27 May 2018 The group has conducted sporadic attacks in the country since 2015. The Economist, "Politics this week," 31 May 2018 There was no sign of the enemy except sporadic machine gun fire barely audible above the roar of tractors and shouts of men on the beach. Washington Post, "AP WAS THERE: 75 years ago, reporter lands on Attu Island," 29 May 2018

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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Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for sporadic

The first known use of sporadic was circa 1689

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More Definitions for sporadic


spo·rad·ic | \spə-ˈrad-ik \

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 \ adverb

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Comments on sporadic

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


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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