perseverate

[ per-sev-uh-reyt ]
/ pərˈsɛv əˌreɪt /

verb (used without object), per·sev·er·at·ed, per·sev·er·at·ing.

to repeat something insistently or redundantly: to perseverate in reminding children of their responsibilities.

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Origin of perseverate

First recorded in 1910–15; back formation from perseveration

OTHER WORDS FROM perseverate

per·sev·er·a·tive, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does perseverate mean?

To perseverate is to repeat something, such as words or actions, over and over again.

Perseverate is used both in a general sense and in the more specific contexts of psychology and speech pathology. In this sense, the act of perseveration is the persistent repetition of a word, gesture, or act. This can be the result of a brain injury or a condition like schizophrenia.

Example: I’m frustrated by the degree to which I have to perseverate just to get the students to follow simple rules.

Where did perseverate come from?

Perseverate is a back formation of perseveration (which means perseveration came first and part of it was chopped off to make perseverate). Perseveration has been used in English since the 1500s, but it didn’t come to be synonymous with repetition until the 1900s. The term originally meant “resolve” or “determination” and comes from the Latin persevērātiōn-, meaning “perseverance” (which has related roots).

The psychological sense of perseveration is based on a translation of the German term perseverationstendenz. That word was used by German researchers to describe a condition in which a patient obsessively repeats words or actions, such as by zipping a zipper continuously or repeatedly asking the same question despite receiving an answer. This is often caused by a brain injury or by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, aphasia, schizophrenia, or Parkinson’s disease.

More generally, to perseverate is to repeat something to an excessive or nearly excessive degree, like when you have to keep telling your roommates to stop putting the cereal box back empty.

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How is perseverate used in real life?

Perseverate is used by medical professionals such as speech pathologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists to describe a specific kind of repetitive behavior. More generally, it is used as a fancy way of saying that someone keeps saying the same thing over and over, but this use is fairly uncommon.

 

Try using perseverate!

Is perseverate used correctly in the following sentence?

The patient has been observed repeating certain gestures, and that tendency to perseverate is thought to be a symptom of the brain injury.