“The flight attendant delivered the safety instructions in a perfunctory manner.”

What is the best definition of perfunctory?

Check your answer!

Choice A - With minimal effort or enthusiasm
Choice B - Carried out to utter perfection
Choice C - In accord with its proper function
Choice D - Simply done but well-executed


Perfunctory (adjective) – in a routine and superficial manner; or, lacking in interest and enthusiasm 

Perfunctorily (adverb) – as a matter of formality and typically without interest or enthusiasm

GRE pro tips:

The word perfunctory combines the prefix per- meaning “through” and fungi which translates “to perform” or “to function.” So it makes sense that the adjective refers to something performed in a cursory or superficial manner so as to simply get through with it. Perfunctory acts are carried out as part of a routine or duty, with little care or attention: a perfunctory handshake, for instance, or a perfunctory job folding the laundry. Similarly, when used to describe a person, perfunctory indicates a lack of enthusiasm or care: you may adopt a perfunctory demeanor or attitude, for example, when you’re doing something and you simply want to get it over with.

Example sentences:

“They’re Italian, so – when we arrived at their villa – we were greeted with kisses on each cheek rather than perfunctory handshakes.”

“I’d always known Patricia to be perfunctory with strangers, but when she was less than enthusiastic toward me – one of her oldest friends – I knew something was amiss.”