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 Inside many state correctional facilities, sewers are backed up, mold has become more pervasive and trash piles up, boosting the rodent population, Thompson said. Christian Boone, ajc, "‘Treat them as humans.’ Advocates lobby senators for prison reform," 25 Feb. 2021 Despite making up such a large proportion of the LGBT population, bisexual people still face pervasive stigma from both within and outside of the community, Hammack said. Washington Post, "1 in 6 Gen Z adults are LGBT. And this number could continue to grow.," 24 Feb. 2021 As chaotically comical as the trailer is, the point of the series is quite serious, aimed at picking apart the pervasive culture of misogyny in television. Ineye Komonibo,, "The First Trailer For Annie Murphy’s Kevin Can F*** Himself Is Hilarious & Maybe Deadly," 22 Feb. 2021 Among the numerous impediments to women and other underrepresented groups in the startup world, including people of color, harassment is one of the most pervasive. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "At 31, Bumble founder and SMU grad Whitney Wolfe Herd just became tech’s newest self-made billionaire," 11 Feb. 2021 San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg officially launched his bid for re-election Wednesday — touting strides over the last two years toward combating the city’s pervasive poverty as well as climate change against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. San Antonio Express-News, "Express Briefing: Super Bowl Sunday could be a COVID-fest, S.A. warned," 4 Feb. 2021 As technological advances make accelerometers and their batteries smaller and longer lasting, and as scientists start to pair them with other sensors, Wilson believes the devices will become more and more pervasive in research. Sara Harrison, Wired, "How to Make a Fitbit for an Elephant," 4 Feb. 2021 This feature of social media is one of the main reasons why misinformation and fake news has become so pervasive. Damon Centola, Scientific American, "Why Social Media Make Us More Polarized, and How to Fix It," 15 Oct. 2020 The conflation of Trump and the flag has become so pervasive that progressives have reported feeling reluctant to buy property in areas rife with the flag. Paige Williams, The New Yorker, "The Changing Meaning of the American Flag Under Trump," 14 Oct. 2020

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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Learn More about pervasive

Time Traveler for pervasive Time Traveler

The first known use of pervasive was circa 1750

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Statistics for pervasive

Last Updated

27 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pervasive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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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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Comments on pervasive

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