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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web It’s the sort of cinematic pace that has all but been done away with in the Netflix era; no swirling cameras or frenetic jump shots here—just long, pensive, slow takes of musicians at work. Howard Fishman, The New Yorker, "The Film That Jazz Deserves," 7 Apr. 2021 Knipe’s singing shifts from conversational to soaring, pensive to heroic, with a leap of anticipation in their voice that can bring to mind Michael Stipe or Buddy Holly. Jon Dolan, Rolling Stone, "Adult Mom’s ‘Driver’ Is a Coming-of-Age Indie-Pop Masterpiece," 5 Mar. 2021 Her face is indeed long and pensive, and her smoker’s voice is as dry as her wit. E. Alex Jung, Vulture, "Youn Yuh-jung Comes to America," 1 Mar. 2021 She’s humble, almost pensive when recounting her early years growing up in an artistic family near Cowles Mountain. Seth Combs Writer, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Meet Amel Janae: Artist considers most of her work as ‘happy accidents’," 28 Feb. 2021 His playing draws out such a wide breadth of ethereal emotions, fiery passion yet pensive, wild abandon yet soft and contemplative. Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune, "30 essential Black musicians who defined Minnesota's sound," 27 Feb. 2021 The iridescent, evanescent orbs, which can persist for minutes before vanishing in an instant, have captivated bubble-blowing children and pensive bathtub recliners alike. John Matson, Scientific American, "Physics Gets Frothy as Mathematicians Dissect Mister Bubble," 9 May 2013 In her earlier years, Elinor Olney was much more reserved and pensive. Ben Nigrin,, "Elinor B. Olney, 92: the ‘Card Shark Matriarch’," 24 Jan. 2021 With its wistful premise, pensive acting, and sweeping direction by J.A. Bayona, A Monster Calls is practically designed to cue the waterworks. Savannah Salazar, Vulture, "New on Netflix: January 2021," 16 Jan. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pensive

Time Traveler for pensive

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for pensive

Last Updated

15 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pensive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!