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

Harassment is pervasive in professions like finance and technology, as well as workplaces like restaurants, factories and hotels. Jessica Bennett, New York Times, "After #MeToo, the Ripple Effect," 28 June 2018 Ads for merchandise and requests for donations are pervasive. Katherine Blunt, Houston Chronicle, "Behind-the-scenes at a Joel Osteen 'Night of Hope' event: Books, bargains and stuff," 7 June 2018 But Capitol Hill’s dysfunction is so pervasive that even the most optimistic predictions are for only a handful of the 12 annual spending bills to make it into law by Oct. 1, the start of the new budget year. Andrew Taylor, The Seattle Times, "Trump threatens another shutdown as budget battle heats up," 27 May 2018 Some were partially burned, windows were broken, and looting appeared to have been pervasive. Albert Aji,, "Syrian troops celebrate recapture of Jordan border crossing," 7 July 2018 Aela Callan, a foreign correspondent on a fellowship from Stanford University, met with Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications for Facebook, in November 2013 to discuss hate speech and fake user pages that were pervasive in Myanmar. Timothy Mclaughlin, WIRED, "How Facebook’s Rise Fueled Chaos and Confusion in Myanmar," 6 July 2018 The revelation shone a spotlight on just how easily and how quickly officials can pinpoint suspects using a technology that is increasingly pervasive in law enforcement. New York Times, "Newspaper Shooting Shows Widening Use of Facial Recognition by Authorities," 29 June 2018 This bias-through-omission turns out to be particularly pervasive in deep-learning systems in which image recognition is a major part of the training process. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Unmasking A.I.'s Bias Problem," 25 June 2018 Since then, the septet has largely shifted away from the dance tracks that are pervasive throughout the K-pop industry in favor of a lighter brand of contemporary pop. Tamar Herman, Billboard, "K-Pop Boy Band BTOB Returns With Sentimental 'Only One For Me'," 19 June 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

17 Sep 2018

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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