by fits and starts


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by fits and starts

In short, inconsistent, and irregular intervals, as of motion or progress. The car was almost completely broken down, but, by fits and starts, we were able to get it to a mechanic. A: "How's the essay coming along?" B: "Oh, by fits and starts."
See also: and, fit, start

fits and starts, by

Also, in fits and starts. With irregular intervals of action and inaction, spasmodically, as in The campaign is proceeding by fits and starts. This expression began in the late 1500s as by fits, the noun fit meaning a "paroxysm" or "seizure"; starts was added about a century later.
See also: and, fit