per·​va·​sive | \ pər-ˈvā-siv , -ziv\

Definition of pervasive

: existing in or spreading through every part of something a pervasive odor

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Other Words from pervasive

pervasively adverb
pervasiveness noun

Is pervasive always negative?

Pervasive is most often used of things we don't really want spreading throughout all parts of something:

a pervasive problem

a stench that is pervasive

pervasive corruption

But pervasive can occasionally also be found in neutral and even positive contexts:

a pervasive rhythm

a pervasive sense of calm

The meaning isn't neutral when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) uses it. Beginning in the early 1990s, the MPAA started giving the R rating to movies with "pervasive language." Most movies have language throughout, of course. The MPAA is using the phrase "pervasive language" to refer to the frequent use of a particular kind of language: profanity.

Examples of pervasive in a Sentence

A resuscitated orthodoxy, so pervasive as to be nearly invisible, rules the land. — Mark Slouka, Harper's, November 2004 The manic money-grab excitement of the Nineties had never been altogether free of our pervasive American guilt. — Norman Mailer, New York Review of Books, 27 Mar. 2002 Race was never articulated as an issue at the trial, even though its presence was pervasive. — Howard Chua-Eoan, Time, 6 Mar. 2000 the pervasive nature of the problem television's pervasive influence on our culture
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Recent Examples on the Web

Those comments introduced her to the pervasive negative attitudes toward natural black hair. Allure, "Goodbye to "Good Hair": Six People Open Up to Allure About the Beauty and Diversity of Black Hair," 8 Aug. 2018 The research presented in the new paper, conducted by scientists in Britain, Australia and Holland, has to do with one of the all-pervasive parameters of our cosmos — the strength of dark energy. NBC News, "Could alien life exist in parallel universes?," 28 May 2018 Alcohol is frequently consumed during work hours and lecherous behavior was pervasive, especially at company parties and premieres, according to former employees. David Ng,, "Will animation legend John Lasseter return to Disney-Pixar after a six-month leave?," 8 May 2018 Former students of Georgetown Prep have described a pervasive culture of heavy underaged drinking. Li Zhou, Vox, "What we know — and still don’t — about the sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh," 24 Sep. 2018 Just think of the pervasive pop culture examples: Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada is one of the most famous, a fearsome leader whose abusive behavior people tolerate or look past in light of her expertise, brilliance, and power. Jessica Press, Redbook, "Women Need to Know They Don't Have to Take Bullying in the Workplace," 19 Sep. 2018 Los Angeles City Hall has largely avoided the uprising seen at the state Capitol, where allegations of a pervasive culture of harassment sparked reforms in how claims against legislators and senior staff are made public. Dakota Smith,, "Mayor's office won't talk about 'inappropriate behavior' among Garcetti staff," 18 June 2018 Even though Trump has denied the allegations, the story has become pervasive, now helped with the expanding federal investigation into Cohen and Avenatti's public relations campaign. Dan Merica, CNN, "GOP candidates don't want to talk about Stormy Daniels. Neither do Democrats.," 1 May 2018 That anxiety mixes with a gut need to protect a pervasive, proud gun culture -- and creates a messy, raw contradiction. Mary Kilpatrick,, "Strong gun traditions coexist with school safety concerns in Jefferson County: Ohio Matters," 8 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pervasive.' 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 pervasive

circa 1750, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pervasive

see pervade

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Statistics for pervasive

Last Updated

5 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pervasive

The first known use of pervasive was circa 1750

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More Definitions for pervasive



English Language Learners Definition of pervasive

: existing in every part of something : spreading to all parts of something

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Comments on pervasive

What made you want to look up pervasive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


irregularly rounded

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