The Meaning of Pervasive: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of pervasive? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word pervasive, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word pervasive mean?

According to Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word pervasive (pronounced pərˈveɪsɪv) is an adjective that describes something that is noticeable or present in every part of a thing or place. For example, the pervasive odor of garlic that fills a room when someone is cooking with it could smell delicious to come while disgusting others. This can refer to things in a literal or a figurative sense. For example, a flood could be considered physically pervasive as it fills a room. This would be using the word pervasive in a literal sense. Ideals or morals could also be a pervasive influence on a society or group of people. This would be using the word pervasive in a figurative sense. Many different things can be pervasive, from a pervasive smell to a pervasive problem.

Numerous different languages also contain words that mean pervasive. You may notice that some of these words look or sound similarly to the word pervasive. These cognates are formed when words are of a similar origin. This list of translations for the word pervasive is provided by Word Sense.

  • Portuguese: pervasivo‎
  • French: pénétrant‎, envahissant‎
  • Maori: rangiwhāwhā‎
  • Finnish: kokonaisvaltainen‎
  • Russian: распространяющийся‎, проникающий‎, пропитывающий‎, заполняющий‎
  • Norwegian: gjennomtrengende‎
  • Persian: فراگیر‎ (farâgir)
  • Spanish: penetrante‎, determinante‎, dominante‎
  • Danish: gennemtrængende‎
  • Dutch: doordringend‎
  • Hungarian: átható‎
  • Vietnamese: lan toả‎, rộng khắp‎
  • Turkish: yaygın‎
  • Polish: wszechobecny‎ (masc.), wszechogarniający‎ (masc.)
  • German: durchdringend‎
  • Swedish: genomträngande‎, genomgående‎

What is the origin of the word pervasive?

According to Etymonline, the word pervasive has been used since the year 1750 as an adjective to mean tending to have the power to permeate or pervade. The word pervasive uses the suffix -ive along with the Latin pervāsus, which is the past participle of pervādere, which means to spread or go through. Pervadere comes from the root per meaning through and the root vadere meaning to go. Related words to pervasive include the verb pervade, pervaded, and pervading, the adverb pervasively and the noun pervasiveness.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word pervasive?

There are many different words that can be used interchangeably with the word pervasive. These are known as synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same or a similar definition to another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary or avoid repeating yourself this list of synonyms for the word pervasive is provided by Thesaurus

  • general
  • stylish
  • extensive
  • widespread
  • regnant
  • boundless
  • across the board
  • up-to-date
  • popular
  • all over the place
  • prevalent
  • permeating
  • prevailing
  • latest
  • common
  • frequent
  • swinging
  • current
  • regular
  • overall
  • rampant
  • natural
  • ubiquitous
  • pervading
  • wonted
  • public
  • with it
  • latest word
  • wall-to-wall
  • habitual
  • run-of-the-mill
  • universal
  • rife
  • state-of-the-art
  • comprehensive
  • sweeping
  • accustomed
  • wholesale
  • now
  • leading edge
  • permeative
  • epidemic
  • established
  • inescapable
  • usual
  • typical
  • everyday
  • ongoing
  • unlimited
  • ruling
  • on a large scale
  • new
  • omnipresent
  • can’t get away from
  • trendy
  • broad
  • typic
  • faddy
  • diffuse
  • unrestricted
  • outspread
  • pandemic
  • customary
  • far-reaching
  • normal
  • in use
  • commonplace
  • far-flung

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word pervasive. These are called antonyms, which are words and phrases that have the opposite meaning as another word or phrase. Antonyms are also useful to know if you are trying to expand your knowledge of the English language or your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word pervasive is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • deficient
  • uncommon
  • subtle
  • tenuous
  • attenuated
  • scanty
  • seldom
  • unlikely
  • sporadic
  • few
  • unthinkable
  • thin
  • unique
  • scattered
  • inconceivable
  • short
  • occasional
  • recherché
  • isolated
  • sparse
  • unimaginable
  • rarefied
  • unheard of
  • extraordinary
  • limited
  • subtile
  • strange
  • out of the ordinary
  • unusual
  • attenuate
  • light
  • semioccasional
  • few and far between
  • rare
  • flimsy
  • unwonted
  • singular
  • unfrequent
  • scarce

How can the word pervasive be used in a sentence?

The word pervasive can be used in many different sentences and contexts both literally and figuratively. In this first example, the word pervasive will be used literally. Scott arrives back home after a long day at work and is greeted by his partner Alex.

Alex: Hey hon, you okay? You look weird. And something smells… off.

Scott: A sewer pipe burst in the building today. The smell was pervasive to say the least. I’ve been trying to get it out of my nose all day, I’m sure it’s all over me. 

Alex: Eugh, gross. And they still made you work through that?

Scott: The building could be on fire and they’d still make us keep sending emails.

Here, Scott uses the word pervasive to describe the smell of the sewer pipes that flooded the office building. In this next example, the word pervasive will be used figuratively. Here, Scott and Alex continue their conversation.

Alex: That’s horrific. I get that they want you all to be productive but doesn’t HR have something to day about this?

Scott: They’re a part of the problem too. They think the company is “family,” but really that;s just an excuse to get you to work outside your contracted hours. This toxic workaholic culture is truly pervasive throughout the company. I don’t know how much longer I can do this job, if I’m honest.

Alex: I completely understand that.

Overall, the word pervasive is an adjective that describes something that fills or permeates an entire room, space, or thing. This word is of Latin origin and can be used in either a literal or a figurative sense. This is a very common word that you will see frequently in the English language.