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[fit-fuh l] /ˈfɪt fəl/
coming, appearing, acting, etc., in fits or by spells; recurring irregularly.
Origin of fitful
First recorded in 1595-1605; fit2 + -ful
Related forms
fitfully, adverb
fitfulness, noun
sporadic, intermittent, erratic, haphazard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for fitful
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • So we waited, with only a decent pretence of interest in the fitful talk.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • Twice more in all; but, the last spell of work was feeble and fitful.

    A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
  • With these gloomy thoughts he fell at last into fitful slumber.

    Slaves of Mercury Nat Schachner
  • Though he lay down in the entrance and slept, his sleep was fitful.

    White Fang Jack London
  • Occasionally it was fitful, and when summoned by irony remained at a distance.

    A Spirit in Prison Robert Hichens
British Dictionary definitions for fitful


characterized by or occurring in irregular spells: fitful sleep
Derived Forms
fitfully, adverb
fitfulness, noun
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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Word Origin and History for fitful

used once by Shakespeare ("Macbeth," 1605) in sense of "characterized by fits," then revived by Scott (1810) with a sense of "shifting, changing." From fit (n.2) + -ful. Related: Fitfully; fitfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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