fits and starts, by

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, by, fit, start

fits and starts

Short, inconsistent, and irregular intervals, as of motion or progress. The car was almost completely broken down, but, with fits and starts, we were able to get it to a mechanic. A: "How's the essay coming along?" B: "Oh, in fits and starts."
See also: and, fit, start
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

*fits and starts

with irregular movement; with much stopping and starting. (*Typically: by ~; in ~; with ~.) Somehow, they got the job done in fits and starts. By fits and starts, the old car finally got us to town.
See also: and, fit, start
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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, by, fit
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

fits and starts, by

In bursts of activity, spasmodically. The fits portion of this expression dates from the sixteenth century, and the pairing with starts came soon afterward, in the early seventeenth century. “Thou hast these things only by fits and starts,” wrote Robert Sanderson in one of his Sermons (1620). John Ray’s proverb collection of 1670 put it slightly differently: “By fits and girds, as an ague takes a goose.”
See also: and, by, fit
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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