from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Occurring at irregular intervals or in isolated or scattered places; having no pattern or order: synonym: periodic.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Separate; single; scattered; occurring singly, or apart from other things of the same kind; widely or irregularly scattered; of exceptional occurrence (in a given locality); straggling.
  • In phytogeography, distributed in several regions: so used specifically by A. P. de Candolle (French sporadique), in contrast with endemic, of plant genera whose species are thus distributed. Compare polydemic.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Occurring singly, or apart from other things of the same kind, or in scattered instances; separate; single
  • adjective (Med.) a disease which occurs in single and scattered cases. See the Note under Endemic, a.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Rare and scattered in occurrence.
  • adjective Exhibiting random behavior; patternless.

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

  • adjective recurring in scattered and irregular or unpredictable instances


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

[Medieval Latin sporadicus, scattered, from Greek sporadikos, from sporas, sporad-; see sper- in Indo-European roots.]


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word sporadic.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • This is a delightful example of a word that sounds exactly like what it means, and both the sound and meaning intrigue me. I bet there is even a word for "a word that sounds like what it means" there?

    September 20, 2011

  • Words that represent “the sound of the thing signified” are onomatopoeic (or, if you prefer, onomatopœic or onomatopoetic); the property itself (as well as its use) is called onomatopoeia. (Wordnik is crawling with lists of examples.)

    September 20, 2011

  • Thanks! I remember that word now. Not sure where I discovered it originally though.

    September 20, 2011