pervasive

adjective
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

And in the years since the 2003 blackout, cyberattackers have become more sophisticated and the number of attempts more pervasive. San Diego Union-Tribune, "California operator of electricity grid fends off millions of cyberattacks each month," 14 June 2019 This shift isn’t the direct result of a Democratic Party moving leftward—though that may play a role—but it is fundamentally rooted in something much more concrete, and much more pervasive: the exploding scale of the problem. Adam Harris, The Atlantic, "The Decade That Changed the Student-Debt Debate," 5 June 2019 But now, two results published last month have cast doubt on those findings, and have illustrated that problems with interpretations of GWAS results are far more pervasive than anyone realized. Quanta Magazine, "New Turmoil Over Predicting the Effects of Genes," 23 Apr. 2019 Subtle redactions and word choice adjustments are pervasive throughout site. Laignee Barron, Time, "Here's What the EPA's Website Looks Like After a Year of Climate Change Censorship," 1 Mar. 2018 The slights are pervasive, with black model stars continually confronted with hairstylists and makeup artists unwilling to adapt to the nuances of working with darker skin and textured hair. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Models on Why Representation Matters," 9 Apr. 2019 While there is a culture of paying one’s way into an upper echelon school that is quite pervasive, the Varsity Blues bribery scheme explicitly sought to find spaces for the children in exchange for money, via Singer as conduit. Tyler Kingkade, Town & Country, "How the College Admissions Scandal Is Different From the Other Ways Rich Parents Help Their Kids Get Into School," 13 Mar. 2019 In Russia, according to one fan on the ground, the song has been pervasive beyond the games — constantly played in bars, restaurants and other gathering spots in the tournament’s host cities. Brian Mccollum, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit's global sports anthem: The White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army'," 29 June 2018 To a great many Americans, that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias. Fox News, "Will Mueller get his presidential interview?," 8 Aug. 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

25 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pervasive

The first known use of pervasive was circa 1750

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More Definitions for pervasive

pervasive

adjective

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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