Definition of perverse in English:



  • 1Showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable:

    ‘Kate's perverse decision not to cooperate held good’
    • ‘But I have this perverse desire to be shaved with a cut-throat razor - by an expert.’
    • ‘But he admits to sharing one trait with his crumpled creation: he's wilfully perverse.’
    • ‘His considerable powers of concentration served to amplify the more extreme, uncompromising, even perverse, aspects of his personality.’
    • ‘Instead of being taken aback, he felt a perverse obstinacy rise up inside him.’
    • ‘I always have this perverse but burning desire to be scared, and it's hard for me to achieve this goal simply because it's hard for me to get scared.’
    • ‘There is, however, an inflexibility and perverse bias already present in the environing world, and it's this which defamiliarises and removes our projects from us.’
    • ‘The example du jour is his persistent, some might say perverse desire to ram roads through some of our last old-growth forests.’
    • ‘So his decision to show the way last night smacked of a perverse desire to prove something to himself and the world.’
    • ‘Also, I'm so stubborn and perverse that her rudeness just made me more determined to get to know her.’
    • ‘It seems his muse, once so pliable, has become perverse and wilful: I commiserate.’
    • ‘His decision to work in mezzotint was partly perverse, as it was an antiquated medium so labor-intensive that it was only rarely practiced.’
    • ‘I'm one of these perverse people who will deliberately take a spite against something, just because everyone else likes it.’
    awkward, contrary, difficult, unreasonable, uncooperative, unhelpful, obstructive, disobliging, unaccommodating, troublesome, tiresome, annoying, vexatious, obstreperous, disobedient, unmanageable, uncontrollable, recalcitrant, refractory, rebellious
    View synonyms
  • 2Contrary to the accepted or expected standard or practice:

    ‘in two general elections the outcome was quite perverse’
    • ‘The reign of George II practically revels in this perverse transparency.’
    • ‘The liar, by contrast, is concerned with the truth, in a perverse sort of fashion: he wants to lead us away from it.’
    • ‘She describes the proposed development of the old bus depot as unpopular, illogical and perverse.’
    • ‘The extension of this model to securities pricing has created a widely accepted but perverse understanding of financial markets.’
    • ‘Is it about the fundamentally deluded nature of human existence, or its perverse, incorrigible optimism?’
    • ‘Now, this standard has a certain perverse appeal, at least if we felt it would be universally followed.’
    • ‘These new rules should be structured in a way that removes perverse incentives to lower standards.’
    • ‘To argue that we are powerless to change the political environment in the face of irrational fanaticism is a perverse form of defeatism.’
    • ‘In the perverse logic of defense contracts, the more complications the better.’
    • ‘The refusal by the government to accept the best science is irrational and perverse.’
    • ‘Making treatments free had created two perverse incentives: patients expected a treatment for every complaint, and doctors felt compelled to provide one.’
    • ‘Shall I judge you by their perverse standards, until you can prove otherwise?’
    • ‘It would be utterly illogical and perverse to deal with this matter on anything other than a UK-wide basis.’
    • ‘Human nature is far too perverse for anything this simple to be successful!’
    • ‘There is sometimes in us a perverse refusal to accept or to believe in good, a deep-seated, hardened refusal which belittles or despises good.’
    • ‘It is perverse because everyone accepts that regular exercise helps reduce the risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, obesity and even depression.’
    • ‘If that is correct, of course, the only comparison with the steriliser's immunity, with which I am dealing, is of a perverse contrast.’
    • ‘Worse still, in countries where development is the central problem, uniform standards may have perverse effects.’
    • ‘This may seem a contradictory, even perverse, claim.’
    • ‘So, ironically, even the economic consequences of the neo-liberal program are likely to be quite perverse in practice.’
    illogical, irrational, unreasonable, contradictory, wrong, wrong-headed, incorrect, irregular, inappropriate, unorthodox
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Law (of a verdict) against the weight of evidence or the direction of the judge on a point of law.
      • ‘It will also prevent unnecessary appeals in cases where a perverse jury verdict is returned.’
      • ‘It could only do so if satisfied that the decision was so perverse that the judge must have fallen into error.’
      • ‘It is asserted in this appeal that the jury's verdict was perverse and that the answers were incontrovertibly unreasonable.’
      • ‘Where, however, a jury reaches a perverse verdict on the evidence, it is open to the Court of Appeal, to reverse that verdict.’
      • ‘It is a perverse verdict and it is a miscarriage of justice in relation to costs.’
  • 3Sexually perverted:

    ‘an evil life dedicated to perverse pleasure’
    ‘films depicting behaviour which seemed perverse or deviant were seen as more suitable for private therapy than for public consumption’
    perverted, depraved, unnatural, abnormal, deviant, degenerate, immoral, warped, twisted, corrupt
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘turned away from what is right or good’): from Old French pervers(e), from Latin perversus turned about, from the verb pervertere (see pervert).