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Does anybody recognize differences between the following sentences?

  1. She took a perverse interest in photos of boys.
  2. She took a perverted interest in photos of boys.
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2 Answers 2

Confusing perverse and perverted seems to be a fairly common error in English. Of the sites that explain the difference, Ginger seems to have the most concise definitions:

Perverse: Marked by a disposition to oppose and contradict

Perverted: (of sexual behavior) showing or appealing to bizarre or deviant tastes

As this site explains, neither word necessarily has any sexual connotations:

The sex-related meanings of words tend to drive out all other meanings. Most people think of both “perverse” and “perverted” only in contexts having to do with desire; but “perverse” properly has the function of signifying “stubborn,” “wrong-headed.”

Nothing erotic is suggested by this sort of thing: “Josh perversely insisted on carving wooden replacement parts for his 1958 Ford’s engine.”

It’s better to use “perverted” in relation to abnormal sexual desires; but this word also has non-sexual functions, as in “The bake-sale was perverted by Gladys into a fundraiser for her poker habit.”

These sentences place your examples in a context that might make their word choice more clear:

  1. Despite her strait-laced upbringing, Mandy took a perverse interest in photos of boys in Tiger Beat.
  2. Her maternal instincts thwarted, Matilda took a perverted interest in photos of boys in Speedos.
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I think using 'perverted' makes the jump immediately to the sexual connotation whereas using 'perverse' allows for other interpretations.

perverse :

  1. Turned aside; hence, specifically, turned away from the (morally) right; willfully erring; wicked; perverted.
  2. Obstinately in the wrong; stubborn; intractable; hence, wayward; vexing; contrary.
  3. (law, of a verdict) Ignoring the evidence or the judge's opinions.


  1. deviating from what is normally considered right, normal or correct

  2. of, relating to, or practicing unusual or "kinky" sex

  3. misrepresented, altered or distorted
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