dreamily or wistfully thoughtful: a pensive mood.
expressing or revealing thoughtfulness, usually marked by some sadness: a pensive adagio.

Origin of pensive

1325–75; < French (feminine); replacing Middle English pensif < Middle French (masculine), derivative of penser to think < Latin pēnsāre to weigh, consider, derivative of pēnsus, past participle of pendere. See pension, -ive
Related formspen·sive·ly, adverbpen·sive·ness, nouno·ver·pen·sive, adjectiveo·ver·pen·sive·ly, adverbo·ver·pen·sive·ness, noun

Synonym study

1. Pensive , meditative , reflective suggest quiet modes of apparent or real thought. Pensive , the weakest of the three, suggests dreaminess or wistfulness, and may involve little or no thought to any purpose: a pensive, faraway look. Meditative involves thinking of certain facts or phenomena, perhaps in the religious sense of “contemplation,” without necessarily having a goal of complete understanding or of action: meditative but unjudicial. Reflective has a strong implication of orderly, perhaps analytic, processes of thought, usually with a definite goal of understanding: a careful and reflective critic.

Antonyms for pensive Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pensively

Contemporary Examples of pensively

Historical Examples of pensively

  • "There's ONE comfort," he remarked, pensively, as she worked.

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

  • "Strange that he makes no mention of Valerie" said Marius pensively.

    St. Martin's Summer

    Rafael Sabatini

  • "She was very kind—a sweet woman," said Andre-Louis pensively.


    Rafael Sabatini

  • "You do me a fuller justice than many who have known me longer," said he, pensively.

    One Of Them

    Charles James Lever

  • "They do not cross my mind as they used to do," said she, pensively.

    One Of Them

    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for pensively



deeply or seriously thoughtful, often with a tinge of sadness
expressing or suggesting pensiveness
Derived Formspensively, adverbpensiveness, noun

Word Origin for pensive

C14: from Old French pensif, from penser to think, from Latin pensāre to consider; compare pension 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for pensively



late 14c., from Old French pensif "thoughtful, distracted, musing" (11c.), from penser "to think," from Latin pensare "weigh, consider," frequentative of pendere "weigh" (see pendant). Related: Pensively; pensiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper