English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Persistence and perseverance seem to have very similar definitions.

Googling shows

persistence: Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

perseverance: Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

What is the difference between them?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by Robusto, Matt E. Эллен, aedia λ, Daniel, simchona Sep 8 '11 at 22:44

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

There are many contexts where the two words are actual or near synonyms. In others, such as persistence of vision only the first word can be used. Perseverance requires a personified agent exercising willpower. Persistence doesn't - but if there is one, it often implies being tiresome rather than resolute. – FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 21:12
I don't think this is general reference. You can read the definitions as many times as you want, and still not have a good idea of when to use which word. – Marthaª Sep 8 '11 at 23:54
up vote 10 down vote accepted

"Persistence" is used in the sense of "stubborn" (obstinate). There could be a slight negative connotation. For example:

The telemarketers persistently called us.

We don't say they "perseverantly" called us. "Persistent" is used when there continuing action, and the purpose is either bad, or neutral, and sometimes(rarely) good.

"Perseverance", is used when the purpose is good. That is, you're doing something to help someone, or to achieve a desirable goal, such as climbing Mt. Everest.

Depending on how you feel on something, you could use "perseverance"/"Persistence". For example, the telemarketer calling you, could annoy you, and you could call him "obstinately persistent". But to the marketer, you might be to him, a tough customer, and he might seem to himself "bravely perseverant in trying to persuade this tough customer."

As you can see, it gives a different "feel" about the thing described.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.