Definition of perturb in English:



  • 1Make (someone) anxious or unsettled:

    ‘they were perturbed by her capricious behaviour’
    [with object and clause] ‘he was perturbed that his bleeper wouldn't work’
    • ‘Some conservative voters are perturbed that the couple, married in 1998, appear to lead separate lives.’
    • ‘She was not perturbed because she knew the warden called in every day.’
    • ‘He was understandably perturbed, and scratched the gold surface off with a knife to show me how easy it was to tell it was fake.’
    • ‘Much of the audience is perturbed by the portrayal here, but the setting quickly changes to the next day at school.’
    • ‘There are, probably, two principal concerns that will be perturbing the potential visitor.’
    • ‘He said local residents were perturbed by this and felt there was the potential for the emergency services to get confused.’
    • ‘We are perturbed by the deteriorating condition on the health front.’
    • ‘What perturbs me is how we have come to accept all this.’
    • ‘She was perturbed by my independent streak, my take it or leave it attitude and my utter inability to find suitable companionship.’
    • ‘I was particularly perturbed because, in the accompanying brochure, the drink was bright blue.’
    • ‘What perturbs me though is the complete lack of value I have received from my taxes, that I have faithfully paid towards public health over the years.’
    • ‘He is also perturbed by the fact that no meaningful debate is being made on this illogical act of film censorship.’
    • ‘She was not perturbed by the low attendance, insisting that most people on the street supported her position.’
    • ‘I think it's her sleeve that perturbs me most, aside from the fact that the entire dress bores me fiercely.’
    • ‘How many of you are perturbed if no-one posts anything in your comments box against a post you'd have liked some feedback on?’
    • ‘However, neither Clive or Christine were perturbed by this.’
    • ‘But there was something about the film that perturbed me from the offset, and fairly swiftly I realised what it was.’
    • ‘We are perturbed by the current strike by council workers and feel the best way out of the problem would be to return to work.’
    • ‘Fifteen years later when I revisited the issue, I was still perturbed.’
    • ‘He's also perturbed by the way his daughters' peers dress.’
    upset, worried, unsettled, disturbed, concerned, troubled, anxious, ill at ease, uneasy, fretful, disquieted
    disconcerted, discomposed, unnerved, alarmed, bothered, distressed, dismayed, apprehensive, nervous, restless, agitated, flustered, ruffled, shaken, flurried, discountenanced, uncomfortable
    twitchy, rattled, fazed, discombobulated
    worry, upset, unsettle, disturb, concern, trouble, make anxious, make uneasy, make fretful, disquiet
    discompose, disconcert, discomfit, unnerve, alarm, bother, distress, dismay, gnaw at, agitate, fluster, ruffle, discountenance, exercise
    rattle, faze
    View synonyms
  • 2Subject (a system, moving object, or process) to an influence tending to alter its normal or regular state or path:

    ‘nuclear weapons could be used to perturb the orbit of an asteroid’
    • ‘In this case, inverting one element at a time might perturb its function whereas inverting them both at once might be less detrimental.’
    • ‘If their contributions to behavior are understood then one should be able to predictably alter the behavior by perturbing the activity of the neurons.’
    • ‘A general concern with AFM imaging of living cells is that the imaging process in some way perturbs the cells.’
    • ‘It could change the heating structure of the atmosphere and perturb the climate system in ways we don't understand now.’
    • ‘Drugs perturb the system through increasing or decreasing transmission or transmitter levels, or up or down regulating receptor populations.’
    • ‘The failure of a laboratory's computer system has the potential to disrupt work flow, compromise business interests, and delay or perturb patient care.’
    • ‘Many suggest that global warming will perturb the climate system so much as to even initiate an Ice Age.’
    • ‘But how do mass extinctions perturb these systems in the first place?’
    • ‘Did you know that pressure from sunlight alone is sufficient to perturb the orbit of a satellite travelling in the solar system?’
    • ‘The future of experiments to test the behavioral role of neurons in vertebrates lies in using reverse genetic tools to perturb function.’
    • ‘In this way, we see that the two systems engage in an exchange, a feedback loop of information and effect, which serves to further change or perturb each system.’
    • ‘By their calculations, it wouldn't take much to perturb our own system, either.’
    • ‘If we perturb a system that has a rational frequency ratio, then it can easily be shifted into a chaotic situation with irrational frequencies.’
    • ‘It will stay there if your hand is perfectly stable and nothing perturbs the equilibrium.’
    • ‘It also suggests magnetic fields as a useful tool for perturbing and investigating cellular processes that involve large biomolecular assemblies.’
    • ‘A fieldworker can learn more from perturbing the system than from pretending to be an invisible fly on the wall.’
    • ‘The challenge is to perturb the system in a cell specific way to examine the behavioral consequences.’
    • ‘External factors that could perturb development include temperature and environmental chemicals.’
    • ‘We evaluate the sensitivity of the system's perfect adaptation ability by perturbing the perfect adaptation conditions.’
    • ‘It was therefore predicted that another more distant planet must be perturbing Uranus' orbit.’


Late Middle English: from Old French pertourber, from Latin perturbare, from per- completely + turbare disturb.