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 Just a year later, however, masks are both routine and pervasive. Sayanti Basu, Forbes, "Facing The Future: Masks Are Here To Stay — Why That’s A Good Thing," 5 May 2021 The killing of George Floyd, in May, 2020, set off worldwide protests of the deadly and pervasive subordination of Black Americans by the police. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "The Simple Facts of Derek Chauvin’s Trial," 10 Apr. 2021 Asia has leapt ahead, with pervasive, fast and dirt-cheap payments services, and a new generation of dynamic fintech firms that have rapidly reached scale. The Economist, "Digital commerce Fintech comes to America at last," 27 Mar. 2021 In order to create real and pervasive change, ultimately people and companies need to be held accountable beyond their conscious decision making. Liz Bentley, NBC News, "Equal Pay Day 2021: How executives can help close the gender pay gap once and for all," 24 Mar. 2021 On the narrower 107 trail, the quiet is pervasive, almost spiritual, thanks to the oaks, ancient survivors clinging to hillsides or meadows where the soil is as much rock as dirt. Jeanette Marantos, Los Angeles Times, "Starved of recreation? Try SoCal’s newest set of trails: Ventura’s nature reserve," 13 Mar. 2021 In the longer-term, the effects could be far deeper and more pervasive across a range of asset classes. Mike Bird, WSJ, "The Covid Baby Bust Could Reverberate for Decades," 5 Mar. 2021 But Cunningham’s infectious energy was palpable and pervasive. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Wild 'cowboy' Brock Cunningham gives Texas an edge," 26 Feb. 2021 These common messages about being old are insidious and pervasive in our culture. Pat Samples, Star Tribune, "Growing older is not awful; ageism is," 28 Jan. 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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Statistics for pervasive

Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pervasive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 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

Comments on pervasive

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