per·​sev·​er·​a·​tion pər-ˌse-və-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce perseveration (audio)
plural perseverations
: continuation of something (such as an activity or thought) usually to an extreme degree or beyond a desired point
specifically, psychology : the continual involuntary repetition of a thought or behavior
Perseveration is said to occur when the patient continues to give the answer to the previous question in response to new questions. Lewis Senior
One patient had intermittent perseveration of speech and writing. Frank Adams et al.
The perseverations associated with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] may be qualitatively different … than the repetitive and intrusive thoughts and actions associated with OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder]. Susan L. Hyman et al.

Word History


borrowed from German Perseveration (in Perseverationstendenz "tendency toward perseveration"), borrowed from Latin persevērātiōn-, persevērātiō "persistence in a course of action," from persevērāre "to persist in a course of action or an attitude in spite of opposition, keep on" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at persevere

Note: The term Perseverationstendenz was introduced by the German psychologist Georg Elias Müller (1850-1934) and his student Alfons Pilzecker in Experimetelle Beiträge zur Lehre vom Gedächtniss, Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane, Ergänzungsband 1 (Leipzig, 1900), p 58.

First Known Use

1907, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of perseveration was in 1907

Dictionary Entries Near perseveration

Cite this Entry

“Perseveration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Medical Definition


per·​sev·​er·​a·​tion pər-ˌsev-ə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce perseveration (audio)
: the continual involuntary repetition of a thought or behavior
Rocking from side to side, finger wiggling, and repetition of words are all examples of perseveration. More specifically, the rocking and finger wiggling are examples of action-related perseveration demonstrated by many people with autism.Tina Arora, Education
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