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  1. coming, appearing, acting, etc., in fits or by spells; recurring irregularly.
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Origin of fitful

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

Synonyms for fitful

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for fitfully

irregularly, erratically, restlessly

Examples from the Web for fitfully

Contemporary Examples of fitfully

Historical Examples of fitfully

British Dictionary definitions for fitfully


  1. characterized by or occurring in irregular spellsfitful sleep
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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 fitfully



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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper