perverse

adjective

per·​verse (ˌ)pər-ˈvərs How to pronounce perverse (audio)
ˈpər-ˌvərs
1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
perversely adverb
perverseness noun
perversity 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?
Recent Examples on the Web As Russia has grown increasingly unconcerned about pleasing the West, identifying with these ugly orcs has, in some circles, become a matter of perverse pride. Eliot Borenstein, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 These are the perverse economics of being a reality-TV star. Irina Aleksander, New York Times, 20 Feb. 2024 His early work on price theory established the power of markets and the perverse effects of government intervention. Korok Ray, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 The perverse result has been the elevation of algorithms over constitutional law, effectively ceding judicial power. Jaron Lanier, WIRED, 13 Feb. 2024 This dynamic creates a perverse incentive for the medical industry to encourage these folks, typically the aged and poor, to end their lives quickly to reduce medical expenses. Reader Commentary, Baltimore Sun, 8 Feb. 2024 Mod's role is more in the Emma Thompson tradition of witty, highly capable women who, because life and love are both perverse and unfair, have to struggle to get their due, but never lose their sense of fairness. Tom Gliatto, Peoplemag, 7 Feb. 2024 There is something perverse about so much federal funding going straight into the pockets of one state — and one of the wealthiest states at that. Kayla Bartsch, National Review, 29 Dec. 2023 Some seemed to take a perverse delight in imagining the KFC team’s reaction to their bids. H. Claire Brown, New York Times, 29 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'perverse.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near perverse

Cite this Entry

“Perverse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perverse. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

perverse

adjective
per·​verse (ˌ)pər-ˈvərs How to pronounce perverse (audio)
ˈpər-ˌvərs
1
: morally bad : corrupt
2
: stubborn in opposing what is right, reasonable, or accepted : wrongheaded
3
4
: marked by perversion : perverted
perversely adverb
perverseness noun

Medical Definition

perverse

adjective
per·​verse pər-ˈvərs How to pronounce perverse (audio)
: being, relating to, or characterized by perversion
perverse sexual behavior

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