per·​turb | \ pər-ˈtərb How to pronounce perturb (audio) \
perturbed; perturbing; perturbs

Definition of perturb

transitive verb

1 : to cause to be worried or upset : disquiet, unsettle Half way down the next flight, she smiled to think that a char-woman's stare should so perturb her.— Edith Wharton The crowd didn't seem to perturb them in the slightest …— Nick Hornby
2 : to throw into confusion : disorder perturbing the social order
3 : to cause to experience a perturbation — see perturbation sense 2 Newton finally realized that the planetary orbits would be only approximate ellipses, for the mutual attractions of the planets would perturb their paths.— Owen Gingerich

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Other Words from perturb

perturbable \ pər-​ˈtər-​bə-​bəl How to pronounce perturbable (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for perturb

discompose, disquiet, disturb, perturb, agitate, upset, fluster mean to destroy capacity for collected thought or decisive action. discompose implies some degree of loss of self-control or self-confidence especially through emotional stress. discomposed by the loss of his beloved wife disquiet suggests loss of sense of security or peace of mind. the disquieting news of factories closing disturb implies interference with one's mental processes caused by worry, perplexity, or interruption. the discrepancy in accounts disturbed me perturb implies deep disturbance of mind and emotions. perturbed by her husband's strange behavior agitate suggests obvious external signs of nervous or emotional excitement. in his agitated state we could see he was unable to work upset implies the disturbance of normal or habitual functioning by disappointment, distress, or grief. the family's constant bickering upsets the youngest child fluster suggests bewildered agitation. his declaration of love completely flustered her

Did You Know?

With its per- prefix, perturb meant originally "thoroughly upset", though today the word has lost most of its intense edge. Perturb and perturbation are often used by scientists, usually when speaking of a change in their data indicating that something has affected some normal process. When someone is referred to as imperturbable, it means he or she manages to remain calm through the most trying experiences.

Examples of perturb in a Sentence

It perturbed him that his son was thinking about leaving school. the caller's strange remark perturbed me enough to keep me awake that night
Recent Examples on the Web The construction around their downtown Denver loft was deafening, MacDonald said, and the lack of social distancing perturbed him. Los Angeles Times, oregonlive, "Wealthy enclaves balance coronavirus risk with money from well-to-do who want to escape there," 28 Apr. 2020 Neighbors perturbed by the spectacle said the emojis were intended to mock them. Los Angeles Times, "Remember the hot-pink ‘emoji house’? It sold for $1.55 million in Manhattan Beach," 13 Apr. 2020 There is no doubt that things are perturbing and peculiar. Samantha Harvey, Time, "I Had Severe Insomnia Long Before the Pandemic. Here's What I've Learned From Those Sleepless Nights," 12 May 2020 Growing baby planets can perturb nearby matter in these disks, twisting and bending it. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, "A Rare Glimpse Into a Solar System’s Beginnings," 1 May 2020 Trump seemed perturbed by reporters' questions asking him to square his remarks with the survey conducted by the HHS watchdog. Author: Ellen Nakashima, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump removes inspector general who was to oversee $2 trillion stimulus spending," 7 Apr. 2020 None of those facts perturbed Kavanaugh’s ideological opponents in the Democratic Party and the media. Alexandra Desanctis, National Review, "Biased Journalism Is Gutting the #MeToo Movement," 17 Apr. 2020 Social media users were perturbed by the incident and showed support for Ifill in numerous responses, some even comparing the incident to when civil rights icon Rosa Parks was told to move to the back of the bus in 1955. Doha Madani, NBC News, "NAACP official alleges Amtrak conductor asked her to give up her seat," 19 Jan. 2020 Germans are not perturbed that their electoral decisions in 2017 forced center-right Chancellor Angela Merkel into an awkward left-right coalition with a dying SPD. Joseph C. Sternberg, WSJ, "The Democrats Aren’t the Only Liberal Party in Collapse," 16 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'perturb.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of perturb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for perturb

Middle English, from Middle French perturber, from Latin perturbare to throw into confusion, from per- + turbare to disturb — more at turbid

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Time Traveler for perturb

Time Traveler

The first known use of perturb was in the 14th century

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Statistics for perturb

Cite this Entry

“Perturb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for perturb


How to pronounce perturb (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of perturb

: to cause (someone) to be worried or upset


per·​turb | \ pər-ˈtərb How to pronounce perturb (audio) \
perturbed; perturbing

Kids Definition of perturb

: to disturb in mind : trouble greatly

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