I was wondering if someone could help me find a word based off of my description.

I would like a word that means something along the lines of "fleeting, wandering and prone to drifting off" or something like this.

I'm trying to describe thought in a "Men fear thought" analysis.

Trying to breakdown the line "Men fear though more than ruin" I was trying to assert that thought is _ as it is "fleeting, wandering and prone to drifting off".

If anyone has some insight into a particularly helpful word, or one that seems to fit well, please let me know!


I would also like for the word to possibly carry a little bit of a negative connotation, so it can be tied into the analysis of "more than ruin".

Also, I think the word should have its emphasis on "prone to drifting off" and also "leading to other kinds of malicious thoughts/things" if you know what I mean.

  • 1
    "Break down," meaning to analyze, is two words. A breakdown refers to a failure of some kind: mechanical, communication, etc.
    – moioci
    Sep 14, 2010 at 5:23

10 Answers 10


I thought of a third possibility that covers the transition part.

Capricious: governed or characterized by caprice : impulsive, unpredictable.

If I think of something better, I obviously have no compunction against adding another answer. :)

  • +1: i like capricious. it has negative connotations as well. it's like.. inclined to do things you won't like. =). Unrelated: though thoughts do tend to wander.. you can learn to control them / not be affected by them, see meditation.
    – Claudiu
    Nov 17, 2010 at 1:27

The question changed a little, so I'm changing my answer. :)

Desultory might work, but it might be a bit of a stretch.

Definition of DESULTORY from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 1: marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose 2: not connected with the main subject 3: disappointing in progress, performance, or quality

  • That's quite good! I like that one for sure.
    – Qcom
    Sep 12, 2010 at 20:03
  • 1
    @BOSS, Oh dear, I have terrible timing. :) Did you like "meandering" or "desultory" ? I'll change my answer back if you prefer "meandering."
    – kitukwfyer
    Sep 12, 2010 at 20:09
  • 1
    Well, I kind of like both :) I think meandering was a bit better though, although one thing I don't like about meandering is it kind of seems to imply slow. I think of thought transitioning from something upbeat and joyous to something fearful in almost no time at all. Meandering works, but it doesn't quite cover the transition part.
    – Qcom
    Sep 12, 2010 at 20:15
  • I'll just post "meandering" as a separate answer. That way everything's covered. :)
    – kitukwfyer
    Sep 12, 2010 at 20:18
  • Please provide the name of where you got these copy-pasted citations from, and a link if available. See the meta question on What to do about missing source attributions: Copying, Linking, Attributions, and Plagiarism for discussion about this.
    – tchrist
    Jul 8, 2014 at 0:51

How about "elusive"?

  • Hm, not bad. I'm looking for it possibly to carry a more negative connotation, so it can be tied it with the "fearing thought more than ruin". Although I like "elusive" because it's kind of mysterious, so it's ok. Also, let me update with a little bit more clarification.
    – Qcom
    Sep 12, 2010 at 19:32

Per Wordnik, fugacious is:

  • Passing away quickly; evanescent.
  • Fleeing, or disposed to flee; fleeting; transitory.
  • Fleeting, fading quickly, transient.

Meandering might work. Definition from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Meandering: to wander aimlessly or casually without urgent destination.


I suggest noun evanescence (“The act or state of vanishing away; disappearance” or “The event of fading and gradually vanishing from sight”) to refer to the “fleeting, wandering and prone to drifting off” of thought. The adjectival form is evanescent, as mentioned in definitions of one or more of Marthaª's suggestions. One might assert that thought is evanescent or refer to the evanescence of thought.

Adjective ephemeral (“Lasting for a short period of time”), with synonyms including temporary, transitory, fleeting, evanescent, momentary, short-lived, short, volatile, can be used; eg “Thought is ephemeral and fleeting”. More down to earth, one might say it's here today, gone tomorrow.

  • elusive and ephemeral were the first two words to pop into my head when I read the description.
    – ghoppe
    Sep 27, 2012 at 20:53


  • Existing or lasting only a short time; short-lived or temporary
  • Passing without continuing; lasting only a short time; unstable and fleeting; speedily vanishing
  • Occurring or done in passing; cursory
  • (This doesn't have a negative connotation except in certain contexts.)
    – Marthaª
    Nov 16, 2010 at 18:55

Well the answer to your title could be 'daydreaming', but I'm not so sure after having read the body of your question.


Elusive or ephemeral can be used in your context.



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