coming, appearing, acting, etc., in fits or by spells; recurring irregularly.

1595–1605; fit2 + -ful

fitfully, adverb
fitfulness, noun

sporadic, intermittent, erratic, haphazard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
fitful (ˈfɪtfʊl)
characterized by or occurring in irregular spells: fitful sleep

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

used once by Shakespeare ("Macbeth" iii.2) in sense of "characterized by fits," then revived by Scott (1810) with a sense of "shifting, changing." From fit (n.2) + -ful. Related: Fitfully.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
The fitful evolution of bacteria supports a controversial theory.
By then the sky had gone dead gray, the waves rolled white and fitful.
But the popular acclaim of dinosaurs has been fitful and episodic.
His fitful attempts to present his programs as a coherent, compelling whole
  have been a failure.
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