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

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
Recent Examples on the Web The lack of real change in our nation’s child and adolescent mental health infrastructure has fostered a pernicious and pervasive defeatism among patients and clinicians alike. Steven C. Schlozman, STAT, 24 May 2022 But for some Ukrainians, a new rift with Russians is also deep and pervasive. Lenora Chu, The Christian Science Monitor, 26 Apr. 2022 Burnout is an endemic and pervasive issue in esports, according to those interviewed for this story. Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2022 That’s a marked change from the first six weeks of the year, when Russian messaging was more potent and pervasive, according to a report from Omelas, a digital analysis firm. NBC News, 4 Mar. 2022 Online risks may be exacerbated in the metaverse, where unwanted contact could become more intrusive and pervasive. Ritwija Darbari, Quartz, 4 Mar. 2022 Christian nationalism, while pervasive and long-standing, cannot be normalized. Amanda Tyler, CNN, 27 July 2022 With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue with the goal of dismantling gendered violence in Australia. Alicia Vrajlal,, 19 July 2022 Fresenius in an internal investigation found serious and pervasive compliance issues at Akorn, according to court records. Jennifer Williams-alvarez, WSJ, 14 July 2022 See More

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.

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

14 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pervasive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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