coming, appearing, acting, etc., in fits or by spells; recurring irregularly.

Origin of fitful

First recorded in 1595–1605; fit2 + -ful
Related formsfit·ful·ly, adverbfit·ful·ness, noun

Synonyms for fitful Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for fitful

Contemporary Examples of fitful

  • There have been fitful mutterings about Catalonia, the region of Spain where Barcelona is, seceding from Spain.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Homage to Catalonia

    Megan McArdle

    December 19, 2012

  • So squandering away decades of a sterling credit rating over a “contentious and fitful process” will seem petty.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Downgraded For Bad Behavior

    John Solomon

    August 6, 2011

  • He made some fitful attempts to calm down a bit, filling modest, collage-like monochromatic surfaces with angular shapes.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Death of a Modernist Master

    Simon Schama

    July 6, 2011

  • The stress, compounded by fitful rest and sleepless nights, ages you quickly.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Trust Me, Dominique, Don't Run

    Mansfield Frazier

    May 18, 2011

  • Hossein breathed heavily as he fell in and out of a fitful sleep.

    The Daily Beast logo
    When Everything Changed

    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

    March 11, 2011

Historical Examples of fitful

  • 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 spellsfitful sleep
Derived Formsfitfully, adverbfitfulness, 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

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