Perfunctory vs peremptory

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Perfunctory and peremptory are two words that many find confusing. We will examine the definitions of perfunctory and peremptory, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Perfunctory describes something that is done in a quick, careless or routine manner. An action that is perfunctory has little thought behind it, usually it is a duty that one wishes to deal with using as little effort as possible. Perfunctory is an adjective, related words are perfunctorily, perfunctoriness.  The word perfunctory is derived from the Latin word perfunctorius which means careless.

Peremptory describes something that commands immediate attention, something that is decisive, not open to debate, or dogmatic. In legal terms, peremptory describes something that is  final and not open to debate. Peremptory is an adjective, related words are peremptorily, peremptoriness. The word peremptory dates from the mid-1400s, it is derived from the Latin word peremptorius  which means final or decisive.


He needed execution and exactitude, and his perfunctory one-under 69 was more than enough for a four-stroke victory over Kyle Stanley in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. (Golfworld Digest)

Initial appearances tend to be perfunctory meetings in which attorneys enter their appearance and defendants are advised of their rights and the charges against them. (The Fairfield Daily Republic)

Matters ranging from the estimated length of Anthony Barnaby’s upcoming double-murder trial to the number of peremptory strikes each side will be allowed during jury selection were among the topics addressed Monday at Barnaby’s trial management conference. (The Nashua Telegraph)

“I walked away from this case believing that peremptory challenges are not in the interests of justice, and indeed borders on state-sanctioned discrimination.” (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)