• WordNet 3.6
    • adj desultory marked by lack of definite plan or regularity or purpose; jumping from one thing to another "desultory thoughts","the desultory conversation characteristic of cocktail parties"
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Desultory Jumping, or passing, from one thing or subject to another, without order or rational connection; without logical sequence; disconnected; immethodical; aimless; as, desultory minds. "He [Goldsmith] knew nothing accurately; his reading had been desultory ."
    • Desultory Leaping or skipping about. "I shot at it [a bird], but it was so desultory that I missed my aim."
    • Desultory Out of course; by the way; as a digression; not connected with the subject; as, a desultory remark.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • desultory Leaping; hopping about; moving irregularly.
    • desultory Swerving from point to point; irregularly shifting in course; devious: as, desultory movements; a desultory saunter.
    • desultory Veering about from one thing to another; whiffling; unmethodical; irregular; disconnected: as, a desultory conversation.
    • desultory Coming suddenly, as if by leaping into view; started at the moment; random.
    • desultory Synonyms and Rambling, roving, unsystematic, irregular. See irregular.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • adj Desultory des′ul-tor-i jumping from one thing to another: without rational or logical connection: rambling: hasty: loose
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
L. desultorius, fr. desultor, a leaper, fr. desilire, desultum, to leap down; de, + salire, to leap. See Saltation
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
L. desultorius, of or pertaining to a vaulter, inconstant, desultor, a vaulter, desilīre, -sultum, to leap—de, from, and salīre, to jump.


In literature:

In the late afternoon a desultory action commenced, which to us was desperately exciting.
"South African Memories" by Lady Sarah Wilson
In the desultory history of this question, two facts have been stated requiring distinct proof.
"The Felon's Track" by Michael Doheny
It is preposterous, desultory, tedious, clumsy, dull.
"The English Novel" by George Saintsbury
The first few hands resulted in but desultory betting.
"The Story of the Foss River Ranch" by Ridgwell Cullum
His desultory course has borne scanty and confused results.
"A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.)" by Mrs. Sutherland Orr
He found them also remarkable for their desultory and reckless habits.
"The Land-War In Ireland (1870)" by James Godkin
The desultory conversation between Cap'n Ira, Prudence, and the young shipmaster scarcely attracted the girl's attention.
"Sheila of Big Wreck Cove" by James A. Cooper
The boys and girls were still shouting for her in a desultory fashion.
"Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island" by Alice Emerson
There is something tentative and desultory in his walk.
"The Road" by Jack London
Presently, after a little desultory talk, he took a folded paper from his pocket and shook it out before me.
"Jaffery" by William J. Locke

In poetry:

A desultory waif of time
Flying adventure from my mast,
'Twas thus I voyaged every clime
To come back to myself at last!
"Hesperides" by Harry Kemp
Whose owl-eyes in the scraggly wood
Scared mothers to miscarry,
Drove the dogs to cringe and whine
And turned the farmboy's temper wolfish,
The housewife's, desultory.
"The Death Of Myth-Making" by Sylvia Plath

In news:

THE Metropolitan Opera's new season, off to a desultory beginning with "Otello" and "Manon," gave signs of flickering into life on Wednesday evening with the return of " Ariadne auf Naxos" to the repertory.
Sir, if I may say, poetry flows through you like the desultory breeze doth caress the aeolian harp strings in yon window.
Harmony Korine, aging enfant terrible and self-proclaimed "most American" of American indies, finds his level and brings it home to Nashville with the gloriously desultory slap in the face of public taste, Trash Humpers.
4-ranked raging bull, on the sidelines since his desultory Wimbledon loss, is surely on the road to full recovery now.
Dallek said that in contrast to recent presidencies that had "a desultory quality" and "demoralized" the country, President Kennedy's was still remembered by many for its optimism and Kennedy's inspirational speeches.
So far, our nation's budget debate has been a desultory affair focused on whether a small slice of the federal government's outlays should be cut by $33 billion or $61 billion, or whatever.

In science:

No, I’m talking about the mundane mathematics that falls into the cracks between these well-developed areas: basic facts about sets, functions, and relations. I refer to the material that gets relegated to the desultory miscellanies added to texts under the name of “set-theoretic preliminaries”.
Set-Theoretic Preliminaries for Computer Scientists
Drawing inputs at random may sound like a desultory approach to testing, since it ignores any information about the structure of the system under test.
Stateful Testing: Finding More Errors in Code and Contracts