[des-uh l-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee]


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 formsdes·ul·to·ri·ly, adverbdes·ul·to·ri·ness, noun

Synonyms for desultory

1. See haphazard. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for desultorily

Historical Examples of desultorily

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for desultorily



passing or jumping from one thing to another, esp in a fitful way; unmethodical; disconnected
occurring in a random or incidental way; haphazarda desultory thought
Derived Formsdesultorily, adverbdesultoriness, noun

Word Origin for desultory

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

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