Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Occurring at irregular intervals; having no pattern or order in time. See Synonyms at periodic.
  • adj. Appearing singly or at widely scattered localities, as a plant or disease.
  • adj. Isolated; unique: a sporadic example.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Rare and scattered in occurrence.
  • adj. Exhibiting random behavior; patternless.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Occurring singly, or apart from other things of the same kind, or in scattered instances; separate; single

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Separate; single; scattered; occurring singly, or apart from other things of the same kind; widely or irregularly scattered; of exceptional occurrence (in a given locality); straggling.
  • In phytogeography, distributed in several regions: so used specifically by A. P. de Candolle (French sporadique), in contrast with endemic, of plant genera whose species are thus distributed. Compare polydemic.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. recurring in scattered and irregular or unpredictable instances

Etymologies

Medieval Latin sporadicus, scattered, from Greek sporadikos, from sporas, sporad-; see sper- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • They've done a good job in reaching out to what we call sporadic voters.

    CNN Transcript Nov 3, 2008

  • And so I think it's a whole new paradigm for pollsters right now, because they're not sure how to reach these new voters and what they call sporadic voters, which the Obama campaign really thinks they're getting to.

    CNN Transcript Oct 31, 2008

  • But the forward element of the 1st Battalion 7th Marines has pushed into this troubled area and they have reported what they call sporadic fighting that has been taking place up there.

    CNN Transcript Apr 5, 2003

  • Guards at the U.N. compound and Afghan policemen who responded to the site engaged in sporadic gun fights with the three attackers, who were killed by Afghan security forces.

    Suicide Bombers Attack UN Compound In Afghanistan

  • And so -- yeah, we met [at the Republican National Convention] and kind of kept in sporadic touch and then met up Christmas last year.

    'Daily Show's' John Oliver engaged to Kate Norley

  • He attempted occasional comebacks, but the last 40 years of his career were spent in sporadic engagements in Las Vegas and in second-tier concert halls.

    Eddie Fisher dies at 82; 1950s singing star brought low by scandalous love life

  • He was lying on his side taking in his breath in short sporadic heaves.

    Nunc Stans

  • Most narcolepsy is sporadic, which is to say that the condition is not a straightforward inherited trait.

    Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems

  • However, inherited cancers are very important as it appears that the genes responsible for, hereditary cancer maybe the same as those involved in sporadic malignancies.

    Archive 2004-11-01

  • On the righthand side of your screen, you are seeing a live picture from Umm Qasr, where for three hours or plus, plus or minus a few minutes, Marines have been trying to deal with a situation of what they are often terming sporadic resistance.

    CNN Transcript Mar 23, 2003

Comments

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  • Thanks! I remember that word now. Not sure where I discovered it originally though.

    September 20, 2011

  • Words that represent “the sound of the thing signified” are onomatopoeic (or, if you prefer, onomatopœic or onomatopoetic); the property itself (as well as its use) is called onomatopoeia. (Wordnik is crawling with lists of examples.)

    September 20, 2011

  • This is a delightful example of a word that sounds exactly like what it means, and both the sound and meaning intrigue me. I bet there is even a word for "a word that sounds like what it means"...is there?

    September 20, 2011