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
Yet such safeguards and checks are only fitfully applied.
In the open ocean bioluminescent organisms fitfully brighten the watery depths
  with their otherworldly sparkle and glow.
The field as a whole will fitfully establish a portfolio of different
  approaches, as it usually does.
The stakes are high, and progress is coming fitfully.
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