per·​verse | \ (ˌ)pər-ˈvərs How to pronounce perverse (audio) , ˈpər-ˌvərs\

Definition of perverse

1a : turned away from what is right or good : corrupt
c : contrary to the evidence or the direction of the judge on a point of law perverse verdict
2a : obstinate in opposing what is right, reasonable, or accepted : wrongheaded
b : arising from or indicative of stubbornness or obstinacy
3 : marked by peevishness or petulance : cranky
4 : marked by perversion

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Other Words from perverse

perversely adverb
perverseness noun
perversity \ pər-​ˈvər-​sə-​tē How to pronounce perversity (audio) , -​stē \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for perverse

contrary, perverse, restive, balky, wayward mean inclined to resist authority or control. contrary implies a temperamental unwillingness to accept orders or advice. a contrary child perverse may imply wrongheaded, determined, or cranky opposition to what is reasonable or normal. a perverse, intractable critic restive suggests unwillingness or inability to submit to discipline or follow orders. tired soldiers growing restive balky suggests a refusing to proceed in a desired direction or course of action. a balky witness wayward suggests strong-willed capriciousness and irregularity in behavior. a school for wayward youths

Examples of perverse in a Sentence

their perverse cruelty to animals She has a perverse fascination with death. He seems to take perverse pleasure in making things as difficult as possible. His friends all enjoy his perverse sense of humor. Is this some kind of perverse joke?
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Recent Examples on the Web Confronted with all this, conservatives have mostly played defense — pointing out the perverse incentives, the payoffs to the privileged, and the hefty subsidies for a dysfunctional status quo. Frederick M. Hess, National Review, "Break Up the B.A. Cartel," 7 Nov. 2019 Federal student aid, both grants and loans, has been shot through with perverse incentives for decades. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Real World Economics: Klobuchar’s college plan deserves analysis," 3 Nov. 2019 Both represent a perverse evangelism valuing gut feeling that purports its detachment from reality as radicalism. Brian Josephs,, "Kanye West is an unreliable pastor on Jesus Is King," 28 Oct. 2019 Michôd and Edgerton are under no obligation, of course, to follow Shakespeare’s trail, yet to spurn his offers of dramatic intensity seems perverse. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "“Pain and Glory” Tells Autumnal Truths," 4 Oct. 2019 What may seem like a good idea is actually perverse in the long run, making housing more expensive for everyone. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Should Mayor Faulconer veto new low-income housing rules?," 9 Aug. 2019 But Gerri does seem to genuinely care for Roman in a rather perverse way, and vice versa. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, "‘Succession’ star J. Smith-Cameron is as surprised (and amused) by Gerri’s new plot line as you are," 9 Sep. 2019 The beneficiaries of the study are also, in a perverse way, lucky. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "America has a housing segregation problem. Seattle may just have the solution.," 4 Aug. 2019 Once the chain reaction starts, everyone is incentivized in the most perverse ways to continue it. Will Leitch, Daily Intelligencer, "Roger Goodell Is the Prototypical Trump Enabler," 30 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'perverse.' 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 perverse

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for perverse

Middle English, from Anglo-French purvers, pervers, from Latin perversus, from past participle of pervertere

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Statistics for perverse

Last Updated

14 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for perverse

The first known use of perverse was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for perverse


How to pronounce perverse (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of perverse

: wrong or different in a way that others feel is strange or offensive


per·​verse | \ pər-ˈvərs How to pronounce perverse (audio) \

Kids Definition of perverse

1 : stubborn in being against what is right or sensible
2 : wrong especially in a way that is strange or offensive


per·​verse | \ pər-ˈvərs How to pronounce perverse (audio) \

Medical Definition of perverse

: being, relating to, or characterized by perversion perverse sexual behavior

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Comments on perverse

What made you want to look up perverse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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