Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Deeply, often wistfully or dreamily thoughtful.
  • adj. Suggestive or expressive of melancholy thoughtfulness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Having the appearance of deep, often melancholic, thinking.
  • adj. Looking thoughtful, especially from sadness.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Thoughtful, sober, or sad; employed in serious reflection; given to, or favorable to, earnest or melancholy musing.
  • adj. Expressing or suggesting thoughtfulness with sadness.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Engaged in serious thought or reflection; given to earnest musing: often implying some degree of anxiety, depression, or gloom; thoughtful and somewhat melancholy.
  • Expressing thoughtfulness with sadness; betokening or conducive to thoughtful or earnest musing.
  • Synonyms Meditative, reflective, sober.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. deeply or seriously thoughtful
  • adj. showing pensive sadness

Etymologies

Middle English pensif, from Old French, from penser, to think, from Latin pēnsāre, frequentative of pendere, to weigh.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French pensif ("thoughtful"), from the verb penser ("to think") by adding suffix -if (English -ive), from Latin pēnsō. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Also in this family of Latin verbs is pēnsāre, as in “to weigh with the mind,” “to think,” as captured in the English word pensive.

    The English Is Coming!

  • She stared out at the night, silent, her expression pensive.

    My Soul to Keep

  • And in pensive but upbeat flashbacks woven into the play's time-traveling format, Lonnie's father and mother (Reid and Quander) lovingly tease each other and their children.

    Theater review of 'Locomotion' at the Kennedy Center Family Theater

  • Me nec fæmina nec puer, &c., says Horace in pensive mood.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • Jett glanced up and discovered that Kathleen was on her feet, the blanket draped loosely around her, her expression pensive as she looked down at him.

    Wild Blood

  • He had even glanced up from his Bible Sunday at the meeting house to find her sitting cross-legged on the dirt floor, her expression pensive, her cheek resting against Dani's sleek head.

    Once An Angel

  • His expression pensive, the dwarf studied the general's straight, well-armored back.

    Flint the King

  • "Yes, she is usually very quick," replied Mrs. Gay gently, while she gathered all the forces of her character, which were slightly disorganized by her recent indulgence in pensive musings, to do battle against an idea which she had striven repeatedly of late to banish from her thoughts.

    The Miller of Old Church

  • They too wish to climb steep stairs and to eat their bread with tears, and they imagine that the problems of existence which so press upon them in pensive moments would be less insoluble in the light of these great happenings.

    Twenty Years at Hull-House, With Autobiographical Notes

  • The only occupant of this somber apartment was a young girl, seated in pensive thought beside the central table.

    The Hidden Hand

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