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From Late Latin perfunctōrius, from the past participial stem of perfungor, perfunct- (perform, carry through), from per- + fungor.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /pəˈfʌŋk.t(ə)ɹɪ/
  • (US) IPA(key): /pɚˈfʌŋk.tɚ.i/
  • (file)


perfunctory (comparative more perfunctory, superlative most perfunctory)

  1. Done only or merely to conform to a minimal standard or to fulfill a protocol or presumptive duty .
    Synonyms: automatic, cursory, obligatory, pro forma, token, unthinking
    • 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, chapter VIII, in The Land That Time Forgot:
      I caught the gist of what he was saying--which in effect was that he had found and captured this Galu, that she was his and that he defied anyone to question his right of possession. It appeared to me, as I afterward learned was the fact, that I was witnessing the most primitive of marriage ceremonies. The assembled members of the tribe looked on and listened in a sort of dull and perfunctory apathy, for the speaker was by far the mightiest of the clan.
    • 1975, Saul Bellow, Humboldt's Gift [Avon ed., 1976, p. 338]:
      He then poured some wine for me to taste, and harassed me with perfunctory courtesies that had to be acknowledged.
    • 2017 July 30, Ali Barthwell, “Ice and fire finally meet in a front-loaded episode of Game Of Thrones (newbies)”, in The Onion AV Club[1]:
      The second section of the episode charged from Winterfell to Highgarden and Oldtown in a way that felt perfunctory. I found myself asking, “We’re just getting to Winterfell?”
    • 2021 January 6, Luke Broadwater; Emily Cochrane; Matt Stevens, “Congress Rejects Republican Challenge to Pennsylvania Electors, After Day of Chaos”, in The New York Times[2], ISSN 0362-4331:
      Even as former administration officials and Democratic leaders called on the president to tell his supporters to “go home,” Mr. Trump for hours did little to discourage them from storming the building. Instead, he issued two perfunctory tweets in which he asked them merely to remain “peaceful.”
  2. Performed in a careless or indifferent manner as a thing of rote.
    • 1992, Peter Bowbrick, The Economics of Quality, Grades, and Brands[3], page 55:
      Alternatively it may mean that a perfunctory search is enough to ensure that a purchase is acceptable, so less search is carried out.
    He did a perfunctory job cleaning his dad's car, finishing quickly but leaving a few spots still dirty.
    Synonyms: haphazard, mechanical, slipshod
    Antonyms: careful, complete, thorough

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