Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Perfunctory


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is perfunctory. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Perfunctory is used to describe something that is done without energy or enthusiasm, as a duty or out of habit.

// Clearly exhausted after a long day on her feet, our server gave us only a perfunctory greeting before taking our drink orders.


“In those days we offered a pick-up and delivery service for bike repairs. Usually the transaction was perfunctory, but not with Lou. He used to open the door to his house and invite us to come inside for a coffee or soda.” — Bill Durham, The Islander News (Key Biscayne, Florida), 21 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

A perfunctory explanation of the origins of perfunctory would be this: it comes from Latin. Borrowed in the late 16th century, the word is specifically from the Late Latin perfunctorius, meaning “done in a careless or superficial manner.” Perfunctorius ultimately comes from two Latin sources, per-, meaning “through,” and fungi, meaning “to perform.” Fungi is also a source to such words as function, defunct, and fungible, but not to fungus; that word is also from Latin, but it is most likely a modification of the Greek word spongos, meaning “sponge.”

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