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

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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 The positivity rate provides a window into how pervasive the virus is in a community, measuring the total number of tests divided by the number of people who test positivity. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, "What public health experts say about Indiana's move to Stage 5: 'Not out of the woods'," 25 Sep. 2020 Worry about the winter is pervasive in Portland’s restaurant scene. oregonlive, "Wildfires one more hurdle for Portland restaurants, as smoke closes outdoor seating," 17 Sep. 2020 Doubt is often pervasive, and USGS scientists must think very carefully about how to address it. Adam Federman, Wired, "The Trump Team Has a Plan to Not Fight Climate Change," 15 Sep. 2020 The stigma and deep-seated ignorance around personality disorders are pervasive. Yasmin Lajoie,, "“Tomorrow I’ll Be Someone Else”: Living With Borderline Personality Disorder," 3 Sep. 2020 These types of linguistic metaphors – pervasive in speech – have been a focus of my research. Aradhna Krishna, The Conversation, "How did ‘white’ become a metaphor for all things good?," 6 July 2020 But in the more immediate future, the biggest concern is how pervasive the dust layer will be in the tropical Atlantic this summer. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "Massive Sahara desert dust plume closing in on the United States," 26 June 2020 Six months into the pandemic, hunger is more pervasive than ever among households throughout the Bay Area and California. Carolyn Said,, "Hunger rises in Bay Area as pandemic lingers," 15 Sep. 2020 The bias is so pervasive that some have turned to hiding their race from appraisers. TheWeek, "A roadblock for Black homeowners," 5 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for pervasive

Time Traveler

The first known use of pervasive was circa 1750

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Statistics for pervasive

Last Updated

30 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pervasive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for pervasive


How to pronounce pervasive (audio)

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

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