Definition of pervasive
: existing in or spreading through every part of something a pervasive odor
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
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
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.
Origin and Etymology of pervasive
First Known Use: circa 1750
PERVASIVE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of pervasive for English Language Learners
: existing in every part of something : spreading to all parts of something
Seen and Heard
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