[des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee]
lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.

1575–85; < Latin dēsultōrius pertaining to a dēsultor (a circus rider who jumps from one horse to another), equivalent to dēsul-, variant stem of dēsilīre to jump down (dē- de- + -silīre, combining form of salīre to leap) + -tōrius -tory1

desultorily, adverb
desultoriness, noun

1. See haphazard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
desultory (ˈdɛsəltərɪ, -trɪ)
1.  passing or jumping from one thing to another, esp in a fitful way; unmethodical; disconnected
2.  occurring in a random or incidental way; haphazard: a desultory thought
[C16: from Latin dēsultōrius, relating to one who vaults or jumps, hence superficial, from dēsilīre to jump down, from de- + salīre to jump]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Cite This Source's 21st Century Lexicon
Main Entry:  desultory1
Part of Speech:  adj
Definition:  wavering, unsteady; erratic
Etymology:  Latin de- + salire 'to leap'
Main Entry:  desultory2
Part of Speech:  adj
Definition:  irregular, unmethodical; inconsistent
Etymology:  Latin de- + salire 'to leap'
Main Entry:  desultory3
Part of Speech:  adj
Definition:  random; occurring haphazardly; digressive
Etymology:  Latin de- + salire 'to leap'
Main Entry:  desultory4
Part of Speech:  adj
Definition:  disappointing in quality or performance
Etymology:  Latin de- + salire 'to leap''s 21st Century Lexicon
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Word Origin & History

1580s, "skipping about," from L. desultorius, adj. form of desultur "hasty, casual, superficial," lit. noun meaning "a rider in the circus who jumped from one horse to another while they are in gallop," from desul-, stem of desilire "jump down," from de- "down" + salire "to jump, leap" (see
salient). Sense of "irregular" is c.1740.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
The complexity of the field ensures that all too many graduate projects end up
  with only desultory results.
It helps that he is by nature a desultory, recessive fellow.
This sort of thing went on for a while in a desultory, unplanned fashion.
She eyed the people coming and going like a desultory undercover cop.
Related Words
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