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[fit] /fɪt/
a sudden, acute attack or manifestation of a disease, especially one marked by convulsions or unconsciousness:
a fit of epilepsy.
an onset, spell, or period of emotion, feeling, inclination, activity, etc.:
a fit of anger; a fit of weeping.
by / in fits and starts, at irregular intervals; intermittently:
This radio works by fits and starts.
throw a fit, to become extremely excited or angry:
Your father will throw a fit when he hears what you have done.
before 1000; Middle English; Old English fitt round of fighting. See fit3 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for in fits and starts


verb fits, fitting, fitted (US) fit
to be appropriate or suitable for (a situation, etc)
to be of the correct size or shape for (a connection, container, etc)
(transitive) to adjust in order to render appropriate: they had to fit the idea to their philosophy
(transitive) to supply with that which is needed
(transitive) to try clothes on (someone) in order to make adjustments if necessary
(transitive) to make competent or ready: the experience helped to fit him for the task
(transitive) to locate with care
(intransitive) to correspond with the facts or circumstances
adjective fitter, fittest
suitable to a purpose or design; appropriate
having the right qualifications; qualifying
in good health
worthy or deserving: a book fit to be read
(foll by an infinitive) in such an extreme condition that a specified consequence is likely: she was fit to scream, you look fit to drop
(mainly Brit, informal) (of a person) sexually attractive
the manner in which something fits
the act or process of fitting
(statistics) the correspondence between observed and predicted characteristics of a distribution or model See goodness of fit
See also fit in, fit out, fit up
Derived Forms
fittable, adjective
Word Origin
C14: probably from Middle Dutch vitten; related to Old Norse fitja to knit


(pathol) a sudden attack or convulsion, such as an epileptic seizure
a sudden spell of emotion: a fit of anger
an impulsive period of activity or lack of activity; mood: a fit of laziness
give a person a fit, to surprise a person in an outrageous manner
(informal) have a fit, throw a fit, to become very angry or excited
in fits and starts, by fits and starts, in spasmodic spells; irregularly
verb fits, fitting, fitted
(intransitive) (informal) to have a sudden attack or convulsion, such as an epileptic seizure
Word Origin
Old English fitt conflict; see fit³


(archaic) a story or song or a section of a story or song
Word Origin
Old English fitt; related to Old Norse fit hem, Old High German fizza yarn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for in fits and starts



1823, "the fitting of one thing to another," later (1831) "the way something fits." Originally "an adversary of equal power" (mid-13c.), obscure, possibly from Old English fitt "a conflict, a struggle" (see fit (n.2)).

"paroxysm, sudden attack" (as of anger), 1540s, probably via Middle English sense of "painful, exciting experience" (early 14c.), from Old English fitt "conflict, struggle," of uncertain origin, with no clear cognates outside English. Perhaps ultimately cognate with fit (n.1) on notion of "to meet." Phrase by fits and starts first attested 1610s.

part of a poem, Old English fitt, of unknown origin.


"suited to the circumstances, proper," mid-15c., of unknown origin, perhaps from Middle English noun fit "an adversary of equal power" (mid-13c.), which is perhaps connected to fit (n.1). Related: Fitter; fittest. Survival of the fittest (1867) coined by H. Spencer.


"be suitable," probably from early 15c.; "to be the right shape," 1580s, from fit (adj.). Related: Fitted; fitting. Fitted sheets is attested from 1963.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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in fits and starts in Medicine

fit 1 (fĭt)
v. fit·ted or fit, fit·ted, fit·ting, fits
To be the proper size and shape. adj. fit·ter, fit·test
Physically sound; healthy. n.
The degree of precision with which surfaces are adjusted or adapted to each other in a machine, device, or collection of parts.

fit 2 (fĭt)

  1. A seizure or a convulsion, especially one caused by epilepsy.

  2. The sudden appearance of a symptom such as coughing or sneezing.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for in fits and starts



The devices used for injecting narcotics; drug paraphernalia; works

Related Terms

duck-fit, have a shit fit, throw a fit

[1950s+ Narcotics; probably a shortening of outfit]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for in fits and starts


frequent international traveler
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with in fits and starts
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for in fits and starts


in literature, a division of a poem or song, a canto, or a similar division. The word, which is archaic, is of Old English date and has an exact correspondent in Old Saxon fittea, an example of which occurs in the Latin preface of the Heliand. It probably represents figurative use of a common Germanic noun referring to the unraveled edge of a fabric. Lewis Carroll revived this archaic poetic division (perhaps to lend gravity) in the composition of his 132-verse nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark (1876), beginning with "Fit the First: The Landing" and ending with "Fit the Eighth: The Vanishing."

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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