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He jumped from job to job in a desultory manner until he met Mary.
  lacking plan or purpose; or half-hearted
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desultory desuetude desultorily
Desultory is often used to describe a conversation that jumps from one topic to another without plan or purpose.
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  • He jumped from job to job in a desultory manner until he met Mary.
  • desultory conversation characteristic of that kind of party
  • So speaking, she went across to his bookshelves and began looking in a desultory way among his books.
    Woolf, Virginia  --  Night and Day
  • In a desultory way he had read a good deal of philosophy, and he looked forward with delight to the leisure of the next few months.
    Maugham, W. Somerset  --  Of Human Bondage

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  • At first the conversation was desultory.
    London, Jack  --  Martin Eden
  • After a little desultory conversation he asked me if there was anything in which his advice or experience could be of use.
    Bronte, Charlotte  --  The Professor
  • They spoke instead in a desultory fashion of current events.
    Agatha Christie  --  And Then There Were None
  • Before October, 1893, I had studied various subjects by myself in a more or less desultory manner.
    Helen Keller  --  Story of My Life
  • But the firing was desultory.
    Ernest Hemingway  --  For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Now she could identify it as the sound of a piano being played with desultory but undeniable skill, though she couldn’t identify the tune.
    Cassandra Clare  --  City of Bones

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  • On the strength of that performance, 90 percent of KIPP students get scholarships to private or parochial high schools instead of having to attend their own desultory high schools in the Bronx.
    Malcolm Gladwell  --  Outliers
  • ...the desultory gatherings of dirty men who huddle some distance from the train and pass around various types of intoxicant.
    Sara Gruen  --  Water for Elephants
  • In the lulls, Robert and his mother exchanged bits of desultory conversation.
    Kate Chopin  --  The Awakening
  • Grover began to eat desultorily, and as Janis hadn’t had anything yet either, everyone else nibbled to keep them company.
    Gish Jen  --  Typical American
  • Toward noon, Albert roused himself and meandered down to the bay to get a drink Then for an hour or two he hunted sculpins in a desultory fashion, after which he started back toward his bed.
    Farley Mowat  --  Never Cry Wolf
  • All of these Stem leafed through in a desultory way and then handed over to Red, who took longer with them.
    Anne Tayler  --  A Spool of Blue Thread
  • Our pep rallies invariably ended when Mrs. Brown’s large head would peer into the window and flash disapproving, desultory glances at me and the kids.
    Pat Conroy  --  The Water is Wide
  • In spite of his earlier remonstrances about Southern literature falling into desuetude, his brotherly concern for my work had been constant and encouraging.
    William Styron  --  Sophie’s Choice
  • I put on my other jogging suit, the cerise one, and do some desultory stretching exercises on Jon’s floor.
    Margaret Atwood  --  Cat’s Eye
  • It was a required course—easy even by the desultory standards of our school — but trying to get Boris to understand about the Bill of Rights, and the enumerated versus implied powers of the U.S. Congress, reminded me of the time I’d tried to explain to Mrs. Barbour what an Internet server was.
    Donna Tartt  --  The Goldfinch
  • I took out an onion and cut two desultory slices.
    James Patterson  --  1st to Die
  • They talked desultorily for some minutes, then, without apparent reason, a yell from the telescreen bade them be silent.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • Mostly he says incomprehensible things in Kikongo but also speaks like Mr. Poe’s Raven a desultory English.
    Barbara Kingsolver  --  The Poisonwood Bible
  • He stopped briefly to visit with Logan in a desultory fashion before going back to his book.
    Nicholas Sparks  --  The Lucky One
  • Our client appeared to have taken fresh heart at the little glimpse of hope which had been presented to him, and he even broke into a desultory chat with me over his business affairs.
    Arthur Conan Doyle  --  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • She knew she did not bore him, and she buffed or painted her fingernails studiously while he dozed or brooded and the desultory warm afternoon breeze vibrated delicately on the surface of the beach.
    Joseph Heller  --  Catch-22
  • Cult specialists see desultory defacement from inexperienced fringe sects-zealots who commit random acts of terrorism-but the Illuminati have always been more deliberate.
    Dan Brown  --  Angels & Demons
  • Gradually, the staircase that led to the garret, and even the passage-way to the staircase, were avoided by every one in the house, from every one fearing to speak of it, and the legend was gradually falling into desuetude.
    Harriet Beecher Stowe  --  Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Jace hadn’t eaten much, picking through his carton of sesame noodles in a desultory fashion before tossing it aside and flinging himself down onto the blanket, staring up at the sky.
    Cassandra Clare  --  City of Fallen Angels
  • The slates flew off and shattered themselves with desultory crashes.
    T. H. White  --  The Once and Future King
  • Miss Bates had just done as Patty opened the door; and her visitors walked upstairs without having any regular narration to attend to, pursued only by the sounds of her desultory good-will.
    Jane Austen  --  Emma
  • The driver shifted his stance companionably as if they were having a desultory chat on the back steps instead of standing in a blizzard halfway between hoot and holler, with Hallorann’s car balanced three hundred feet above the tops of the trees below.
    Stephen King  --  The Shining
  • As for the latter, one was sleeping soundly and the other lying awake occupied with his desultory thoughts, when daylight came to them bringing with it the desire to rise; for the lazy down was never a delight to Don Quixote, victor or vanquished.
    Miguel de Cervantes  --  Don Quixote
  • She entreated that there might be no more searching; but it was still sought for, in a desultory way, until she was quite well, and the company took their departure.
    Charles Dickens  --  David Copperfield
  • The conference broke up after a few more suggestions and a little desultory conversation.
    Agatha Christie  --  The ABC Murders
  • The artist, in a desultory manner, had imparted to Phoebe something of his history.
    Nathaniel Hawthorne  --  The House of the Seven Gables
  • Whatever it was, it simmered to some purpose, for he grew more and more discontented with his desultory life, began to long for some real and earnest work to go at, soul and body, and finally came to the wise conclusion that everyone who loved music was not a composer.
    Louisa May Alcott  --  Little Women
  • Carrie followed up this desultory conversation with occasional interruptions from the Vances.
    Theodore Dreiser  --  Sister Carrie
  • In ten minutes the man broke in upon the desultory conversation of the furmity drinkers with.
    Thomas Hardy  --  The Mayor of Casterbridge
  • What selfevident enigma pondered with desultory constancy during 30 years did Bloom now, having effected natural obscurity by the extinction of artificial light, silently suddenly comprehend?
    James Joyce  --  Ulysses
  • Deo followed the events, desultorily.
    Tracy Kidder  --  Strength in What Remains
  • They had spent some time wandering desultorily thus, Tess eating in a half-pleased, half-reluctant state whatever d’Urberville offered her.
    Thomas Hardy  --  Tess of the d’Urbervilles
  • She went into the bedroom, turned back her mattress and took from under it a notebook in which she had kept a desultory diary during her thirteenth year, and a square manila envelope.
    Betty Smith  --  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • She wiped him in a desultory fashion, and went upstairs, returning immediately with his shifting-trousers.
    D.H. Lawrence  --  Sons and Lovers
  • The commonwealth fell, the loan bank closed its coffers and its books on a sensible loss, the rules of life which he had drawn about himself fell into desuetude.
    James Joyce  --  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Then they spoke of other things—the desultory talk of those who have been fighting to reach one another, and whose reward is to rest quietly in each other’s arms.
    E.M. Forster  --  A Room With A View
  • "You look tired and ill, Oak," he said then, desultorily regarding his companion.
    Thomas Hardy  --  Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Suddenly her expression changed from desultory enjoyment to active conjecture, and she turned to Selden with a question.
    Edith Wharton  --  The House of Mirth
  • Whatever had happened had happened, and while the intruders picked themselves up, the crowds of Hindus began a desultory move back into the town.
    E.M. Forster  --  A Passage to India
  • I trained in a desultory way, and only years later, when I had put on a few more pounds, did I begin to box in earnest.
    Nelson Mandela  --  Long Walk to Freedom
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Associated words [difficulty]:   desultory [5]
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