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[des-uh l-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈdɛs əlˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/
lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful:
desultory conversation.
digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random:
a desultory remark.
Origin of desultory
1575-85; < Latin dēsultōrius pertaining to a dēsultor (a circus rider who jumps from one horse to another), equivalent to dēsul-, variant stem of dēsilīre to jump down (dē- de- + -silīre, combining form of salīre to leap) + -tōrius -tory1
Related forms
desultorily, adverb
desultoriness, noun
1. See haphazard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for desultorily
Historical Examples
  • They went on to talk, desultorily, of Don Ippolito, and what he might be like.

    A Foregone Conclusion William Dean Howells
  • The storm wore away as desultorily as it had come, and the long night set in.

  • "You look tired and ill, Oak," he said then, desultorily regarding his companion.

  • All these apartments were now deserted, save for a few flunkeys who stood about desultorily in the window embrasures.

    Petticoat Rule Emmuska Orczy, Baroness Orczy
  • But, tired of playing, he had desultorily come round the fence, and was rambling up behind her.

  • I began to watch him, desultorily, and was rather startled by something more than a suspicion that he himself was watching me.

    Romance Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer
  • I think it will run stiller and stiller year by year, a very quiet, desultorily studious existence.

    Stevensoniana Various
  • Dick, desultorily bracing a leaning post of one of the corrals, saw him coming and grinned.

    The Uphill Climb

    B. M. Bower
  • She came and sat beside me on the river-balcony, and talked a little, desultorily and absent-mindedly.

    Richard Vandermarck

    Miriam Coles Harris
  • In time, the talk between the two young men, which had begun so desultorily, warmed up.

    Queed Henry Sydnor Harrison
British Dictionary definitions for desultorily


/ˈdɛsəltərɪ; -trɪ/
passing or jumping from one thing to another, esp in a fitful way; unmethodical; disconnected
occurring in a random or incidental way; haphazard: a desultory thought
Derived Forms
desultorily, adverb
desultoriness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin dēsultōrius, relating to one who vaults or jumps, hence superficial, from dēsilīre to jump down, from de- + salīre to jump
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Contemporary definitions for desultorily

disappointing in quality or performance

Word Origin

Latin de- + salire 'to leap''s 21st Century Lexicon
Copyright © 2003-2014, LLC
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Word Origin and History for desultorily



1580s, "skipping about," from Latin desultorius "hasty, casual, superficial," adjective form of desultor (n.) "a rider in the circus who jumps from one horse to another while they are in gallop," from desul-, stem of desilire "jump down," from de- "down" (see de-) + salire "to jump, leap" (see salient (adj.)). Sense of "irregular, without aim or method" is c.1740. Related: Desultorily; desultoriness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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