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 What the critics are suggesting, in essence, is that Trump’s flouting of norms was so extreme and pervasive that to reset the balance, Garland should judiciously use his discretion to depart from standard practice. David Montgomery, Washington Post, 19 July 2021 That’s because cellulite, besides being pervasive and persistent, is also complicated. Fiorella Valdesolo, WSJ, 2 July 2021 There is also a distinctive and pervasive brandy note in the background. Joseph V Micallef, Forbes, 29 June 2021 The feeling of living in two worlds is strong and pervasive among Afghans who worked with the United States. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 June 2021 The damages are endemic and pervasive, regardless of the many admirable success stories accomplished in spite of their obstacles. Arkansas Online, 24 June 2021 However, the creation of trillions of dollars in (likely necessary) aid by many countries will have a more gradual yet pervasive and lasting effect on prices. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 June 2021 The experience is intense, often long-lasting and pervasive, taking over dreams and waking moments. Madeleine Burry,, 16 June 2021 Ransomware has been a pervasive and ongoing problem for years, but one that had resulted in little action from authorities. NBC News, 11 June 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near pervasive



pervasive developmental disorder

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Statistics for pervasive

Last Updated

21 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pervasive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jul. 2021.

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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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