The words pervasive and ubiquitous seem to mean almost the same thing.

pervasive: existing in or spreading through every part of something <a pervasive odor>

ubiquitous: existing or being everywhere at the same time : constantly encountered : widespread <a ubiquitous fashion>

Is there a difference in connotation or usage, and if so, what is it?

  • I think the difference is given in the definitions above; the difference between pervasive and ubiquitous is the difference between somewhere and everywhere. But if you add a qualifying prepositional clause, the difference goes away: "pervasive among the younger generation" and ubiquitous in the younger generation" mean the same thing. – Peter Shor Dec 18 '12 at 1:07
  • As for connotation, I think of pervasive as being more negative than ubiquitous. I think the links give examples that would back that up. When something is pervasive, it's like it is invading, saturating, taking over. When something is ubiquitous, it just is everywhere (as Peter Shor says). It, whatever "it" is, may have been pervasive before it became ubiquitous. – JLG Dec 18 '12 at 1:12

Pervasive describes things that spread through a place to become established everywhere.

Ubiquitous describes things that are everywhere in a place because it is the nature of that place to have those ubiquitous things.

The two words have slightly different origins -- Pervasive comes from pervade (to diffuse throughout) while Ubiquitous comes fro ubiquity (be everywhere).

  • Agreed it's often in the nature of the place to have the ubiquitous things, but it can also be in the nature of ubiquitous things to be(come) everywhere. At that point the senses overlap, but I'd still tend to see a pervasive presence as more of a "deliberate and directed invasion". Things can become ubiquitous just by drifting around everywhere. – FumbleFingers Dec 18 '12 at 2:22
  • 1
    There is a sense in which ubiquity is enduring pervasiveness. That is, we are conscious of the wide-spread presence of something rather than its (recent) arrival. – Fortiter Dec 18 '12 at 10:25
  • @Fortiter -- agreed -- right now kudzu is pervasive throughout the southeast U.S., eventually it will be ubiquitous. – Jay Elston Dec 18 '12 at 16:44

protected by user140086 Jun 10 '16 at 6:10

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