An adjective that sounds a little like what it means, fitful means stopping and starting, on-again off-again, switching suddenly. I had a fitful night's sleep: I woke up several times throughout the night.

A fit is a disturbance that happens without warning, like a tantrum, tremor, or spasm. If something is fitful, it's "full of fits." A night at the opera is a night of fitful pleasures: the arias are cool, but the rest of the show is boring. I've made only fitful progress trying to lose weight, because I lose only a few pounds at a time, and they almost always come right back: my progress is fitful because it comes in "fits and starts."

Definitions of fitful
  1. adjective
    occurring in spells and often abruptly
    fitful bursts of energy”
    synonyms: spasmodic
    recurring in scattered and irregular or unpredictable instances
  2. adjective
    intermittently stopping and starting
    fitful (or interrupted) sleep”
    synonyms: interrupted, off-and-on
    not continuous in space, time, or sequence or varying abruptly
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