pervasive

adjective
per·​va·​sive | \ pər-ˈvā-siv, -ziv\

Definition of pervasive

: existing in or spreading through every part of something a pervasive odor

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

In today’s world, restless minds are indication enough of the pervasive high stress levels plaguing our everyday well-being. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Why This Holiday Break Is a Perfect Time to Start Foam-Rolling," 28 Dec. 2018 It's expected to take full effect in early 2019 – nearly a year and a half after more than 100 women wrote a blistering letter calling out a pervasive culture of harassment in the Capitol. Kathleen Ronayne, The Christian Science Monitor, "California lawmakers approve revamped sexual misconduct policy," 26 June 2018 The gender imbalance at these establishments contributes to the pervasive culture of harassment. Anne Branigin, The Root, "Ex-Employee Files $6 Million Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Harlem Restaurant," 22 Mar. 2018 Some stories involve Alzheimer's — which shows how pervasive this devastating disease truly is — but others don't. Sarah Schreiber, Good Housekeeping, "Photo of Husband Feeding Wife With Alzheimer's Proves Life-Long Love Exists," 28 Feb. 2017 But few outside business circles know where that fortune comes from or how pervasive their company's industrial influence is on our everyday lives. Michael J. Mooney, Popular Mechanics, "Inside the Koch Brothers' Industrial Empire," 9 Oct. 2015 The pressure to be on or use Facebook in order to self-promote, distribute information, and do one’s job effectively is so pervasive that most of us probably don’t even really think of it as pressure to conform. Aja Romano, Vox, "How Facebook made it impossible to delete Facebook," 20 Dec. 2018 All of these conditions were pervasive throughout the northern hemisphere in the year 536 A.D. The year was a tipping point in an era of unprecedented devastation. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Researchers Identify 536 A.D. as The Absolute Worst Year Ever," 20 Nov. 2018 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of pervasive

circa 1750, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pervasive

see pervade

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pervasive

Statistics for pervasive

Last Updated

8 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pervasive

The first known use of pervasive was circa 1750

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pervasive

pervasive

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of pervasive

: existing in every part of something : spreading to all parts of something

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on pervasive

What made you want to look up pervasive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

important, real, or meaningful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!