Perpetrate vs perpetuate

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Perpetrate and perpetuate are two words that are spelled and pronounced similarly and are often confused, but have very different meanings. We will look at the different definitions of perpetrate and perpetuate, the origins of these two words and some examples of their use in sentences.

Perpetrate means to perform a a harmful, illegal, deceptive or immoral action. Perpetrate is a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are perpetrates, perpetrated, perpetrating, perpetration and perpetrator. The noun perpetrator is often used by police in the United States to describe the person who committed a crime, often shortened to the word perp. The word perpetrate is derived from the Latin word perpetrare, which means to accomplish, to carry out.

Perpetuate means to cause something to continue, to cause something to proceed for an indefinite amount of time. Perpetuate is also a transitive verb, related words are perpetuates, perpetuated, perpetuating, perpetuation, perpetuance and perpetual. The verb perpetuate usually has a negative connotation, applying to the spread of lies or anti-social practices. It is derived from the Latin word perpetuare which means unending. Interestingly, the word perpetual does not describe something that simply continues, it describes something that has no end. Sometimes perpetual is used figuratively, to describe something that seems as if it has no end.


On Tuesday, Bhagwat reiterated that gau rakshaks cannot be mistaken for those who perpetrate atrocities in the name of cow protection. (The Hindustan Times)

Dotin said Trump’s lewd remarks perpetuate college rape culture, and she is worried that the leaked video and audio of him will encourage young men on college campuses to “reinforce their manhood.” (The U.S. News & World Report)