Desultory is one those deceptive words which has a quite a surprising story of origin.

Remember, desultory has nothing to do with weather. The word in question in that regard is sultry, which means Characterized by oppressive heat and humidity.

Desultory originated in the Roman era, in the playing fields of Roman circuses. The performers, going by the name of desultors, used to jump from one horse to another in mid-scream. So, now when we say that conversation between women generally is desultory in nature, all we mean is that the conversation can be quite disconnected and haphazard, flitting from one topic to another.

Desultory comes from the root family SULT (which is used in a variety of forms such as SAL, SIL and even SAULT). This family means ‘to jump or leap’. So when you insult someone, basically you are ‘jumping on him’ (meaning showing someone down).  If one is resilient, then one has the tendency to jump back to the original state. And is one is exultant, then one ‘jumping out of one’s skin with joy’. And an easy one in this family, somersault means to jump or leap while turning heels over head without touching the ground.

Masters Tip to remember Desultory:

Just remember the circus artists and how they go about their work, from one act to another. There is almost a seamless transgression between their acts. Add to that,

Dictionary Definition for Desultory:

1. Lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful. (adjective)

2. Digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random. (adjective)

Usage Examples for Desultory:

1. It was when I would have said that I knew all Goldsmith; we often give ourselves credit for knowledge in this way without having any tangible assets; and my reading has always been very desultory. -My Literary Passions by Howells,William Dean

2. The book is not always dynamic or funny, and sometimes García Márquez just narrates the rather desultory days he just lived.–

3. We present for your inspection, and then debunk, or paw at in desultory fashion, a dozen of the choicest conspiracy theories to gain traction since Jan. 20. -Keeping Up with the Wingnuts

Want to explore more Words?

Explore Our Visual Vocab Section