per·​verse | \(ˌ)pər-ˈvərs, ˈpər-ˌvərs\

Definition of perverse 

1a : turned away from what is right or good : corrupt

b : improper, incorrect

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 , -​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

Requiring companies to publicly report each bug could be a perverse incentive, punishing the products that do the most to protect their users. Russell Brandom, The Verge, "The breach that killed Google+ wasn’t a breach at all," 9 Oct. 2018 As Graeber presents it, this is an education of a kind, but a perverse and unsatisfying one. Rachel Paige King, Longreads, "Is Your Job Lynchian, or Is It More Kafkaesque?," 26 Apr. 2018 And the obsessive hatred of Obama that grew out of Trump’s humiliation at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner has blossomed into a perverse and often self-destructive mania. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?," 8 July 2018 Even perverse decisions will not take you too far from the main plotline. The Economist, "Fighting the resource curse through online gaming," 28 June 2018 Among the highlights of the video are scenes of Clinton shooting down a vodka and Trump in a bedroom with a bevy of attractive young ladies, hinting at one of the most perverse rumors about Trump’s 2013 visit to Moscow. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Collusion-linked Russian pop star mocks Trump in music video.," 26 June 2018 Going back to the early 1980s, Clinton as a young governor was showing his determination to fix the abundant problems in a welfare system creaking with age, inefficiency, and perverse incentives. Neil Swidey,, "How Democrats would be better off if Bill Clinton had never been president," 10 July 2018 Unconditionality is important because many programs create perverse incentives: Urbanization provides the best path from poverty to prosperity, yet rural-employment schemes keep workers home on farms. Edward Glaeser, WSJ, "‘Give People Money’ and ‘The War on Normal People’ Review: The Cure for Poverty?," 9 July 2018 This is about fundamentally changing humanity's perverse relationship with water. Matt Simon, WIRED, "LA Is Doing Water Better Than Your City. Yes, That LA," 12 June 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 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for perverse

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

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More Definitions for perverse



English Language Learners Definition of perverse

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


per·​verse | \pər-ˈvərs \

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 \

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).


something that serves to warn or remind

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