I'm sure that there's a word in the English language that's close to "pensieve" that means something like "contemplative" or "in deep thought". Do we know anything about the origin of the term? I feel like I'm missing a pun.

  • 19
    Pensive (adj) - musingly or dreamily thoughtful
    – FreeMan
    Jul 27, 2020 at 20:04
  • 6
    Not so much a pun as Ms. Rowling trying to be clever.
    – JRE
    Jul 27, 2020 at 20:05
  • 3
    @JRE Rowling try to be clever with wordplay while naming things? Surely you jest
    – Kevin
    Jul 28, 2020 at 15:08
  • 2
    As much you have to pay for a pensieve, if you want something that used to be a pensieve, that's really ex-pensieve. Jul 29, 2020 at 4:07
  • 1
    french penser = "to think"
    – Karl
    Jul 29, 2020 at 10:53

1 Answer 1


Yes, according to JKR it's intended as a pun.

The name ‘Pensieve’ is a homonym of ‘pensive’, meaning deeply, seriously thoughtful; but it also a pun, the ‘sieve’ part of the word alluding to the object’s function of sorting meanings from a mass of thoughts or memories.

Pensieve By J.K. Rowling - Pottermore

  • 3
    Well that's awkward. I'm pretty sure that my accent would have me pronounce both of those words exactly the same.
    – J. Mini
    Jul 27, 2020 at 20:06
  • 38
    That's what homonyms are: words that are pronounced the same. Jul 27, 2020 at 20:26
  • 16
    @InvisibleTrihedron I though homnyms were words that were spelled the same, but had different meanings (e.g. record: a list of historical notes, and record: a vinyl disk which holds music and audio), while words that sound the same are homophones (e.g., to, too, and two)? But maybe the denotations have shifted meanings over the decades, or I just learned it wrong. :)
    – Lexible
    Jul 27, 2020 at 20:57
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    Yes, there are more specialized words that linguists need and logophiles delight in, but in plain English, a homonym is "each of two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins." Jul 28, 2020 at 0:51
  • 18
    @Lexible Homophones are words that sound the same, homographs are words that look the same, and homonyms are a collective term for words which are either or both of those (i.e. "read" (past tense, as "red") and "read" (present tense, as "reed") are homographs and homonyms, but not homophones, "weight" and "wait" are homophones and homonyms, but not homographs, while "light" (photons and electromagnetic waves), "light" (pale, not dark) and "light" (not heavy) are all three) Jul 28, 2020 at 15:19

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