pe·​ren·​ni·​al pə-ˈre-nē-əl How to pronounce perennial (audio)
: present at all seasons of the year
: persisting for several years usually with new herbaceous growth from a perennating part
perennial asters
: persistent, enduring
perennial favorites
: continuing without interruption : constant, perpetual
the perennial quest for certainty
a perennial student
: regularly repeated or renewed : recurrent
death is a perennial literary theme
perennial noun
perennially adverb

Did you know?

When you hear perennial, you probably think of peonies rather than pines. The word today typically describes (or, as a noun, refers to) plants that die back seasonally but produce new growth in the spring. But this wasn’t the word’s initial meaning: originally, perennial was equivalent to evergreen, used, as that word is, for plants that remain with us all year. We took this "throughout the year" sense straight from the Romans, whose Latin word perennis combined per- ("throughout") with a form of annus ("year"). The poet Ovid, writing around the beginning of the first millennium, used the Latin word to refer to a "perennial spring" (a water source), and the scholar Pliny used it of birds that don't migrate. Perennial retains these same uses today, for streams and occasionally for birds, but the word has long since branched out to encompass several other senses, including "constant" (as in "a perennial bestseller") and "recurring" (as in "the perennial joy of reading Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day").

Choose the Right Synonym for perennial

continual, continuous, constant, incessant, perpetual, perennial mean characterized by continued occurrence or recurrence.

continual often implies a close prolonged succession or recurrence.

continual showers the whole weekend

continuous usually implies an uninterrupted flow or spatial extension.

football's oldest continuous rivalry

constant implies uniform or persistent occurrence or recurrence.

lived in constant pain

incessant implies ceaseless or uninterrupted activity.

annoyed by the incessant quarreling

perpetual suggests unfailing repetition or lasting duration.

a land of perpetual snowfall

perennial implies enduring existence often through constant renewal.

a perennial source of controversy

Examples of perennial in a Sentence

The problem … is inherent and perennial in any democracy, but it has been more severe in ours during the past quarter-century because of the near universal denigration of government, politics and politicians. Michael Kinsley, Time, 29 Oct. 2001
The issue between science and art is of perennial interest to me, since I started off in science in college, in medicine, was headed for psychiatry, and ended up writing novels … Walker Percy, "The State Of The Novel," 1977, in Signposts in a Strange Land1991
… scientists are warning that a perennial viral threat, the upcoming flu season, could be far more dangerous than usual—more evidence that these tiny foes are responsible for a large share of human suffering. Claudia Wallis, Time, 3 Nov. 1986
This variety of oregano is perennial. Flooding is a perennial problem for people living by the river.
Recent Examples on the Web The Greyhounds, who also have earned quality ties against John Carroll and perennial power McDonogh, made the most of their urgent play to earn the tie. Glenn Graham, Baltimore Sun, 19 Sep. 2023 Both were on the girls 200-yard medley relay team that finished first at the Big 8 Invitational in late August, ahead of perennial power and defending state champion Dimond. Josh Reed, Anchorage Daily News, 19 Sep. 2023 The custom home at 1600 S.W. Spring St. in Portland’s Southwest Hills has an extensive veranda granting city and mountain views, and is surrounded by perennial gardens. Jeastman, oregonlive, 12 Sep. 2023 The perennial leader in marketing and selling homes priced at $5 million and higher across Dallas-Fort Worth, according to Multiple Listing Service statistics, Allie Beth Allman & Associates agents sold six homes priced at $10 million and higher in July alone. Allie Beth Allman & Associates, Dallas News, 17 Sep. 2023 Still, with his pervert-chic pencil mustache and X-rated aphorisms, Waters retained the joyful, transgressive spirit of a perennial outsider. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 17 Sep. 2023 Defending Division 3 champion Weston started 1-2, the second loss to perennial Division 1 power St. John’s Prep, but bounced back with two wins. Khalin Kapoor,, 16 Sep. 2023 The annual clash between perennial Class 6A state title contenders Spanish Fort and Saraland highlights this week’s Coastal Alabama high school football schedule. Ben Thomas |, al, 12 Sep. 2023 Their perennial nemesis, defensive tackle Cam Heyward, is expected to miss multiple weeks with a groin injury suffered during Sunday’s 30-7 loss to the 49ers, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport. cleveland, 11 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'perennial.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin perennis, from per- throughout + annus year — more at per-, annual

First Known Use

circa 1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of perennial was circa 1660


Dictionary Entries Near perennial

Cite this Entry

“Perennial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
: present at all seasons of the year
perennial springs
: living for several years usually with new leafy growth produced from the base each year
perennial daisies
: recurrent
flooding is a perennial problem


2 of 2 noun
: a perennial plant

Medical Definition


pe·​ren·​ni·​al pə-ˈren-ē-əl How to pronounce perennial (audio)
: present at all seasons of the year
perennial rhinitis

More from Merriam-Webster on perennial

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