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

Bailey's death will remain pervasive for the department, Roach said. Ryan Martin, Indianapolis Star, "Aaron Bailey family receives $650,000 settlement from Indianapolis," 26 June 2018 And now they’ll be linked to gambling not with a wink and a nod, but in official ways that will often seem pervasive. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Why legalized sports gambling is a win for millions of fans," 14 May 2018 The junk food saturation was especially pervasive for football fans. Julia Belluz, Vox, "How sports leagues like the NFL are fanning the childhood obesity epidemic," 27 Mar. 2018 Data from a project called Hamilton68 is often cited as evidence of the Russian bots’ pervasive presence. Philip Bump, Washington Post, "The U.S. political conversation is not and probably never was driven by Russian social-media bots," 20 Feb. 2018 Racially divisive politics have become more pervasive, and police in Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, Virginia, brace for clashes this weekend — the one-year mark of the deadly white nationalist march in the Virginia city. Marcus Harrison Green, The Seattle Times, "Before Charlottesville and since, students in this Seattle summer school urge everyone to unlearn racism," 11 Aug. 2018 There's the loneliness that, research tells us, is becoming more pervasive for young people with the rise in social media's influence. CBS News, "This week on "Sunday Morning" (July 15)," 12 July 2018 Rice’s commission spent 50-something pages of a report trying to identify why cheating has become pervasive in college basketball. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Rice commission fails: College basketball's problems will be fixed only when NCAA model changes," 25 Apr. 2018 Dos Santos Family Graft became pervasive under Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled for almost four decades., "Bribes Lose Their Fizz as Angolan Leader Fights Corruption," 17 Apr. 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

10 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on pervasive

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pervasive

Spanish Central: Translation of pervasive

Nglish: Translation of pervasive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pervasive for Arabic Speakers

Comments on pervasive

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