Adjective > Intermittent

Adjective – Intermittent

The word “intermit” has Latin roots that literally mean “to send in between.

When something intermits, it stops for a while, as if it’s taking a break: “His pain intermitted;” “The rains intermitted.” And when you intermit something, you stop it for a while, or put it on pause.

But we hardly ever use that verb, “intermit.”

We do use the noun a lot: “intermission,” meaning “a break, or a pause.” We often talk about the intermission during a show: you watch Act I, go get a snack during intermission, then come back for Act II.

Turn “intermit” or “intermission” into an adjective, and you get “intermittent,” which describes things that pause and then keep going. In other words, intermittent things are the kind that keep stopping and starting again and again.

Part of speech:

Adjective: “my intermittent attempts to exercise;” “his fever was intermittent.”

Other forms:

The ones we use a lot are “intermittently” and “intermission(s).

how to use it:

When you need a more formal, more serious word for “on-and-of” or “stopping and going,” pick “intermittent.”

You might talk about intermittent phenomena: things that come and go on their own, or stop and start on their own. Like intermittent rains, or intermittent pains or fevers, or an intermittent Internet connection.

Or, you might talk about intermittent things that people do: intermittent attempts to exercise, intermittent dieting or fasting, intermittent bursts of interest in hobbies or goals, etc.


“We sat and drank our tea in total silence, except for the intermittent sound of slurping.”
— Adib Khorram, Darius the Great Is Not Okay, 2018

“Dr. Coburn saw himself as a contrarian who wore his intermittent unpopularity as a badge of honor and grew irascible when others tried to convince him that party loyalty trumped his core beliefs.”
— Adam Bernstein, Washington Post, 28 March 2020