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 By turns pensive and disruptive, agitated and calm, the music ceaselessly engages attention, thanks in part to the pianists’ virtuosity and sensitivity. Howard Reich,, "Best jazz albums of 2019: Dee Alexander, Miguel Zenon and Anat Cohen Tentet had a very good year," 27 Nov. 2019 Ad Astra is a hopeful tale, but a pensive and melancholy one, wrapped up in the splendid visuals of outer space. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The 10 Best Films of 2019," 5 Dec. 2019 In 1965, Snowdon composed this image of the Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures—the title for the Royal Collection's head curator—peering through a microfilm, pensive and inscrutable, with one eye obscured in shadow. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Lord Snowdon’s Work Was About So Much More Than the Royal Family," 15 Dec. 2019 In the black and white photo, Charles and Harry beam down at an awake and very pensive Archie. Katherine J Igoe, Marie Claire, "Meghan and Harry's Birthday Wish to Charles Include a Never-Before-Seen Photo of Archie," 14 Nov. 2019 Buttigieg said ending with a pensive close-up on the mayor’s face. NBC News, "Buttigieg releases new Iowa ad focusing on the 'fight' against Trump — and beyond," 6 Nov. 2019 Masur and the orchestra captured the muscularity of the piece, as well as its more pensive moments, no small feat in a new work as complex as this. Howard Reich,, "Review: Ken-David Masur starts a promising new chapter with Civic Orchestra," 22 Oct. 2019 The pensive ape on top of this post, for instance, can be instantly downloaded for under $10 with a subscription plan with Getty. Anne Quito, Quartzy, "Why editorial illustrations look so similar these days," 26 Oct. 2019 The former made for a neat closure; the latter provides a more open, pensive end. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "El Camino Lives Up to the Legacy of Breaking Bad," 11 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for pensive

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for pensive

Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pensive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for pensive


How to pronounce pensive (audio)

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

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