per·​sev·​er·​ate pər-ˈse-və-ˌrāt How to pronounce perseverate (audio)
perseverated; perseverating; perseverates

intransitive verb

: to recur or repeat continually
We call such tunes 'catchy'—and they are sometimes referred to as 'earworms,' for they may burrow into us, entrench themselves and then perseverate internally hundreds of times a day, only to evaporate, fade away, in a day or two …Oliver Sacks
: to intently focus one's attention on a thought or thoughts : fixate
Lest she be misinterpreted, Hard is not an old-timer perseverating on the good old days and bitter about not getting some of that big money.Bill Dwyre
According to a variety of medical Web sites and publications, people who never smoke, … who exercise and don't perseverate about past wrongs and future ills are happier and healthier and live longer.Brian McKenzie
psychology : to have or display an involuntary repetitive behavior or thought : to exhibit perseveration
Any person … whose social skills have been severely deficient since very early childhood, who started to talk late or whose communicative use of language is inadequate, and who perseverates and lacks cognitive and behavioral flexibility meets the diagnostic criteria for an autistic-spectrum disorder.Isabelle Rapin
perseverative adjective
perseverative behavior
perseverative thought patterns

Did you know?

Looking at perseverate and perseveration, you may guess that the latter was formed by adding a suffix to the former, but that is not the case. Perseveration is actually the older term. It has been around since the 1500s, when it was used as a synonym of perseverance (which at one time was pronounced, like perseverate and perseveration, with the stress on sev, instead of on ver). In the early 1900s, psychologists adopted perseveration for the act of repeating a behavior over and over again—for instance, continually repeating the same syllable or word might be called "verbal perseveration." Shortly afterward, those scientists wanted a verb for such acts of repetition, so they changed the -tion of perseveration to -ate and perseverate was born.

Examples of perseverate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Moreover, this isn't just about finding something better to do than perseverate about an exclusion that won't actually happen. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 22 May 2022

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

Word History


back-formation from perseveration

First Known Use

1912, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of perseverate was in 1912


Dictionary Entries Near perseverate

Cite this Entry

“Perseverate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jul. 2024.

Medical Definition


intransitive verb
per·​sev·​er·​ate pər-ˈsev-ə-ˌrāt How to pronounce perseverate (audio)
perseverated; perseverating; perseverates
: to have or display an involuntary repetitive behavior or thought : to exhibit perseveration
People with autism tend to perseverate on physical objects, such as flicking light switches or spinning objects like bicycle wheels.Steven Shore, Intervention in School and Clinic
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