Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Having no set plan; haphazard or random. See Synonyms at chance.
  • adj. Moving or jumping from one thing to another; disconnected: a desultory speech.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Jumping, or passing, from one thing or subject to another, without order or rational connection; without logical sequence; disconnected; immethodical; aimless.
  • adj. Out of course; by the way; as a digression; not connected with the subject.
  • adj. Disappointing in performance or progress.
  • adj. Leaping, skipping or flitting about, generally in a random or unsteady manner.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Leaping or skipping about.
  • adj. Jumping, or passing, from one thing or subject to another, without order or rational connection; without logical sequence; disconnected; immethodical; aimless.
  • adj. Out of course; by the way; as a digression; not connected with the subject.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Leaping; hopping about; moving irregularly.
  • Swerving from point to point; irregularly shifting in course; devious: as, desultory movements; a desultory saunter.
  • Veering about from one thing to another; whiffling; unmethodical; irregular; disconnected: as, a desultory conversation.
  • Coming suddenly, as if by leaping into view; started at the moment; random.
  • Synonyms and Rambling, roving, unsystematic, irregular. See irregular.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. marked by lack of definite plan or regularity or purpose; jumping from one thing to another

Etymologies

Latin dēsultōrius, leaping, from dēsultor, a leaper, from dēsultus, past participle of dēsilīre, to leap down : dē-, de- + salīre, to jump; see sel- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin desultorius ("hasty, casual, superficial"), from desultor ("a circus rider who jumped from one galloping horse to another"), from dēsiliō ("jump down"), from  ("down") + saliō ("jump, leap") (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • premeditated opposite

    July 19, 2012

  • A pity it doesn't come up in the actual lyrics of the song.
    But I found also a band with that name.

    August 8, 2009

  • Nobody defines it better than Paul Simon. Or here, if you want the audio.

    I suspect this is the only use of desultory in a song title.

    August 8, 2009

  • My thesaurus defines it as random. What a funny word. I have this voice in my head: imagine someone with a good valley girl accent saying something in the lines of “I'm, like, Tiffany, you know, from, like, Lawndale? (vocal fry) Ooohh, your (sic), like, from Lawndale, too? That's like sooo desultory? (vocal fry) Totally awesome?�?

    August 8, 2009

  • I am reading a book that says it belongs to the "SULT" family, which means jumping onto something.

    other examples would be 'exultant' that mean jumping out of joy.

    March 16, 2008

  • Eh, I just don't say this word. Though if I did, I would say it wrong. Deliberately. ;-)

    August 21, 2007

  • Yep. If there's something to mispronouce or misspell, jennarenn's already on it. :-/

    August 21, 2007

  • What's worse, oroboros, is that I already know that but keep forgetting! Aaarrgh!

    August 21, 2007

  • Wow! Just learned I've been mispronouncing this all my life! Anybody else? It ain't de SUL tor ee. Aaarrgh!

    August 21, 2007

  • That's great! Thanks, seanahan.

    August 21, 2007

  • The etymology is awesome. "désultor (a circus rider who jumps from one horse to another"

    August 20, 2007