per·​va·​sive | \ pər-ˈvā-siv How to pronounce pervasive (audio) , -ziv \

Definition of pervasive

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web The idea that women have less value than men is embedded in American culture; a pervasive axiom reinforced everywhere from our churches to our courthouses. Damon Young, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2022 That pervasive unease, equal parts hilarious and nightmarish, may be Atlanta‘s ultimate commentary on storytelling and on contemporary America. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Sep. 2022 Seven of those Muslim series regulars were perpetrators or targets of physical violence -- part of the pervasive stereotyping of Muslim characters, according to the researchers. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 11 Sep. 2022 Since corporations can claim trade secrets, Morone decided to resist pervasive data capture by incorporating herself, so that the company, JLM Inc., contains the intellectual property and activities of the human Morone. Charlotte Kent, WIRED, 8 Sep. 2022 Benjamin Hovland, a member of the US Election Assistance Commission, described the intimidation campaign as pervasive. Neil Vigdor,, 6 Sep. 2022 The film maintains a pervasive sense of disquiet before a shocking twist halfway through, leading to an eruption of all-out horror at its conspiratorial climax. Randall Colburn,, 6 Sep. 2022 Rather than reckon with the failures of the pervasive anti–law enforcement policies that were implemented in the wake of summer 2020, many advocates of criminal-justice reform have continually attempted to rewrite the story. Nate Hochman, National Review, 2 Sep. 2022 The pervasive concern that colleges should teach practical skills has allowed woke ideology to infect the liberal-arts disciplines while STEM remains, for the most part, grounded in reality. Sarah Montalbano, WSJ, 31 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of pervasive

circa 1750, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pervasive

see pervade

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Time Traveler for pervasive

Time Traveler

The first known use of pervasive was circa 1750

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Dictionary Entries Near pervasive



pervasive developmental disorder

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Statistics for pervasive

Last Updated

19 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pervasive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2022.

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