The Meaning of Pensive: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of pensive? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word pensive, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word pensive mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word pensive is an adjective that describes someone tho is thinking deeply of sad or melancholy things. This phenomena evokes a dreaminess with a tinge of sadness. People who are pensive are in quiet modes with a strong implication of real thought and a goal of complete understanding. These processes of thought come with conscious intent, and may stem from a circumspection or reflection on past experience or moods. This can also be used in a religious sense. Pensive is two syllables – pen-sive – and the pronunciation of pensive is ˈpɛnsɪv. One can add the suffixes ness and ly to form related forms of the word – the adverb pensively and the noun pensiveness. 

Many different languages also have words that mean pensive. You may notice that many of these words look or sound similar to the word pensive. These cognates are formed when two words are of a similar origin. Many different languages are of similar origins. This list of translations for the word pensive is provided by Word Sense, but they can also be found in a Spanish dictionary or the Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary Digital Edition. 

  •  Estonian: mõtlik‎
  •  Czech: zadumaný‎
  •  German: nachdenklich‎, gedankenvoll‎, gedankenverloren‎
  •  Norwegian: tankefull‎, ettertenksom‎
  •  Esperanto: pensema‎
  •  Finnish: mietteliäs‎
  •  French: pensif‎
  •  Portuguese: pensativo‎ (masc.)
  •  Spanish: pensativo‎
  •  Russian: заду́мчивый‎, размышля́ющий‎
  •  Catalan: pensatiu‎
  •  Maori: whakamoemoeā‎
  •  Danish: eftertænksom‎, tankefuld‎
  •  Serbo-Croatian: zàmišljen‎
  •  Italian: pensieroso‎, contemplativo‎, estraniato‎

Learning new languages is tough but rewarding. See if you can figure out what languages the following words are in and what they mean!

zamišljen gondolkodó zamyšlenost die nachdenklichkeit svajingas domīgs dlm keadaan zamišljen zamišljen fundersam ครุ่นคิด düşünceli dalgın 沉思的 замислений sjetnost elgondolkodás  задумливий متفکر trầm ngâm 沉思的 silvius περισυλλογή actitud pensativa mõtlikkus فکرت mietteliäisyys air pensif  tungsindighet melancholia ettertenksom susimąstęs zadumany peinzende ettertenksomhet

What is the origin of the word pensive?

According to Etymonline, the word pensive has been used the late 14c Middle English pensif. This is from the Middle French and Old French pensif, which is a derivative of penser and derivative of pēnsus, from the Latin pendere/pendĕre and Latin pēnsāre/Latin pensāre. This comes from ive and ver in Indo-European roots, as are pensively (adv.) and pensiveness (n.)

What are synonyms of pensive?

There are many different words and phrases that one can use in place of the word pensive. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have a similar or the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are looking to expand your vocabulary or if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word pensive is provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  daydreaming
  •  pondering
  •  serious
  •  somber
  •  gloomy
  •  dreamy
  •  contemplative
  •  reflecting
  •  grave
  •  wistful
  •  philosophical
  •  absentminded
  •  lachrymose
  •  plaintive
  •  deep in thought
  •  thinking
  •  sorrowful
  •  broody
  •  meditative
  •  thoughtful
  •  mournful
  •  dreaming
  •  disconsolate
  •  ruminative
  •  cogitative
  •  engrossed
  •  lugubrious
  •  solemn
  •  abstracted
  •  ruminating
  •  deliberative
  •  in a brown study
  •  preoccupied
  •  musing
  •  melancholy
  •  grim
  •  excogitative
  •  doleful
  •  introspective
  •  ruminant
  •  museful
  •  miserable
  •  sober
  •  speculative
  •  absorbed
  •  lost in thought
  •  dejected
  •  sad
  •  brooding
  •  reflective

How can pensive be used in a sentence?

The word pensive can be used in many different ways in the English language. This is a great way to learn new words. It is difficult to learn new lingo, but you could also try making a quiz or flashcards to test your knowledge of a vast collection of words. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are several examples of pensive to get you started!

The sensitive, reflective critic gave a faraway look of contemplation and pensive wistfulness as he stared at the painting with a definite goal of understanding and wisdom. He felt it represented depression.

Alexander Pope felt a pensive sadness at the aurora phenomena in the sky. He stared at it with a melancholy musing.

The melancholy young man, Tom Wolfe, listened to the pensive adagio. He became lost in serious thought during the flow of a language of music that brought him gloom and a degree of anxiety. 

The group took pensive bites of their different servings with an earnest musing at the odd restaurant on the final leg of the trip. They tried to eat in meditative privacy, but the chef spied on them.

The scholars went over the poetry via careful analytical deliberation. They felt the poet’s persona evoked a pensive mood, melancholy thought, and strains of sadness upon serious reflection. They attempted careful absorption of the pensive poets intent, and wrote to her. They received a wistful response of a poet who said her intent was to examine the gentler phases of beauty. 

The painful vigils keep coming back to merit a pensive look and serious reflection from Alice Munro. Her regiment and habit of reflection didn’t help. 

Vologsky’s face registers pensiveness when he looks at the cover art of the album. There is tension between the suspicious cat and the bright chestnut thoroughbred racehorse in front of the carriage and big house, which confuses him.

The intelligent child Byron lives with his little brother Etienne. Their guardians attempt to give them better understanding of the world through contemplative strolls near Princeton University, for a departure from the home and aesthetic enrichment, but the walks have a sad quality to them.

Overall, the word pensive means lost in thought often in a sad or melancholy way. This word is of Latin origins. 


  1. Pensive definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  2. Pensive | Word Sense
  3. pensive | Origin and meaning of pensive | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. Pensive synonyms – 594 Words and Phrases for Pensive | Power Thesaurus