Definition of pervasive
- a pervasive odor
the pervasive nature of the problem
television's pervasive influence on our culture
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.
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
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.
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