Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Widely or commonly occurring, existing, accepted, or practiced. See Synonyms at prevailing.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Widespread or preferred.
  • adj. Superior or dominant.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Gaining advantage or superiority; having superior force, influence, or efficacy; prevailing; predominant; successful; victorious.
  • adj. Most generally received or current; most widely adopted or practiced; also, generally or extensively existing; widespread; prevailing

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of such a character as to prevail; superior in power or might; controlling; ruling.
  • Influential; possessed of moral weight or authority.
  • Effective; efficacious; productive of results, particularly of results desired.
  • Wide-spread; current; of wide extent, occurrence, practice, or acceptance: as, a prevalent belief; a prevalent custom.
  • Synonyms and Prevalent, Prevailing, Predominant, Ruling. Ruling in this connection refers to moral ascendancy: as, a ruling fashion set by a reigning belle. Prevalent and prevailing are sometimes the same, and in two senses, that of exceeding in strength, as the prevalent (or prevailing) opinion was against action, and that of existing widely, as scarlet fever is a prevalent (or prevailing) distemper. The habitual is more likely to be expressed by prevalent; the present or actual, sometimes the temporary, by prevailing: as, the prevailing fashion. The words are weaker and less exact than ruling; predominant is the strongest of all. Predominant implies activity, and actual or figurative effort after leadership on the part of that which is predominated over: as, a predominant faction; a predominant opinion is one that seems to put down all others.
  • Common, Prevalent, etc. See common.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. most frequent or common

Etymologies

Middle English, very strong, from Latin praevalēns, praevalent-, present participle of praevalēre, to be stronger; see prevail.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin praevalentem. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • “Complementary” is a term prevalent in England, and carries the implication that unconventional therapies can coexist side by side with mainstream medicine.

    The Best Alternative Medicine

  • The most prevalent is the "thought, word, and deed" motif, but I've also found what appear to be alliterating triads (of anatomical features, interestingly) in at least one OE prayer.

    Numbers everywhere

  • How prevalent is social media (social networking sites, blogs, etc.)?

    Working with bloggers « The Book Publicity Blog

  • However, one question that has become increasingly prevalent is whether the impending release of Grand Theft Auto IV (on April 29th), the fourth edition of Rockstar's incredibly successful hyper-violent game franchise, will have an impact on the performance of Iron Man (out in theaters on May 2nd).

    Iron Man vs GTA IV: The Ultimate Summer Showdown? Think Again « FirstShowing.net

  • When I used the word prevalent, I was using it to say that racism, as something that could possibly be quantified, is, in my experience, at similar levels than it has been over the last few decades.

    "When the novelty of the first African American president wears off, the sight of Obama talking on television might have less impact..."

  • She details a legend prevalent among anusim, a Hebrew word meaning "people who suffered forced baptism."

    Jews in Mexico. a struggle for survival part 2

  • In this latter capacity he has become, amongst other things, a sort of Jiminy Cricket or social conscience, pointing out the seamy side of certain prevalent business practices.

    Is the Press Too Sensational?

  • And so prevalent is Chinese ownership of convenience stores that Spaniards routinely refer to the shops themselves as "chinos."

    TIME.com: Top Stories

  • From here we can look out upon the future, a future which will, according to this story, always involve some sort of "return" -- a word prevalent throughout The Transition Handbook and infused within the Transition imagination of re-skilling, relocalization, rebuilding - as we descend from these great but unsustainably rarified heights to a world built on a more human scale.

    Energy Bulletin -

  • The bold action has been going against the idea prevalent among medics, to show that sugar does not necessarily have to be swallowed to act on glucose levels: by simple contact with the tissues in the oral cavity, particularly those under the tongue, a rapid elevation of blood sugar is observed, in fact even faster acting than if the sugar was swallowed.

    A spoonful of sugar can help fight Malaria

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