pen·​sive | \ ˈpen(t)-siv How to pronounce pensive (audio) \

Definition of pensive

1 : musingly or dreamily thoughtful a pensive young poet
2 : suggestive of sad thoughtfulness her face had the pensive mournfulness of a seraph in an old sad painting— Herman Wouk

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Other Words from pensive

pensively adverb
pensiveness noun

Examples of pensive in a Sentence

… the combination of national crisis and imminent electoral victory creates an atmosphere at once pensive and elated. — Yossi Klein Halevi, New Republic, 25 Dec. 2000 We take in the synchronized swimming of sardines and the pensive patrol of a leopard shark. — Roger Rosenblatt, Time, 5 Oct. 1998 … did not seem depressed so much as pensive, and within a few minutes he was talking eagerly—in fact, unstoppably—about his favorite subject: school. — James Traub, New Yorker, 19 Dec. 1994 The child sat by himself, looking pensive. rainy days often put her in a pensive mood
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Recent Examples on the Web

In particular, Eagle notes Stewart’s adeptness at shooting the pensive intensity of John Coltrane and the power of James Brown. Trevor Fraser,, "Chuck Stewart exhibit in Orlando puts eye on jazz greats," 10 June 2019 The Italian writer has conjured up a delicious, comical stream of omniconsciousness: a pensive diary by the original omniscient narrator, God. Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books, "Heaven Can’t Wait," 18 Apr. 2019 Over a sandwich at a strip mall diner, Mr. Fogle gave a pensive stare and said he was unruffled by the sour views many Phuds had of him. New York Times, "Never Solved, a College Dorm Fire Has Become One Man’s Obsession," 13 Apr. 2018 The pensive, seductive lyrics have some keen listeners speculating whether the track is about Abel's girlfriend Bella Hadid and perhaps even Drake. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Fans Think The Weeknd Sings About Bella Hadid (and Disses Drake) on New Song "Lost in the Fire"," 11 Jan. 2019 In the exhibition’s film, the camera pans the faces of the girls circling Hawkesworth in the Mombasa schoolyard—some pensive, some smiling. Sara Morosi, WSJ, "Jamie Hawkesworth’s New Show Embraces Chance," 30 Nov. 2018 There's present-opening, food-eating, and even a few pensive, thoughtful shots of the family. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "For Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, Christmas Was All About Matching PJs and Holiday Dancing," 26 Dec. 2018 Her parts were quiet, often pensive characters that served as foils or companions of major characters. Alexandra Wolfe, WSJ, "Rose Byrne Sharpens Her Comedy Skills," 3 Aug. 2018 The Instagram photo is a profile shot of Malone in a black jacket, looking kind of pensive and sad while staring at the ground. Chloe Metzger, Marie Claire, "Post Malone Cut Off All of His Hair and Looks Unrecognizable," 9 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pensive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of pensive

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pensive

Middle English pensif, from Anglo-French, from penser to think, from Latin pensare to ponder, frequentative of pendere to weigh — more at pendant

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Statistics for pensive

Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for pensive

The first known use of pensive was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for pensive



English Language Learners Definition of pensive

: quietly sad or thoughtful


pen·​sive | \ ˈpen-siv How to pronounce pensive (audio) \

Kids Definition of pensive

: lost in serious or sad thought a pensive mood

Other Words from pensive

pensively adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on pensive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pensive

Spanish Central: Translation of pensive

Nglish: Translation of pensive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pensive for Arabic Speakers

Comments on pensive

What made you want to look up pensive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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