Definition of Pansies


It's a word and it's a plant. To the majority of us, the word "pansy" calls to mind tiny little flowers with happy faces. To others, it's a slang term, and not necessarily one you want to use to describe a friend. How the two became synonymous may be a mystery, but to many, the definition of a pansy is a familiar flower in springtime gardens.

Webster's Definition of Pansy

According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the word "pansy" has its roots in the Latin word, pensare which means to ponder, and is "a garden plant (Viola wittrockiana) chiefly derived from the hybridization of the European Johnny-jump-up (Viola tricolor) with other wild violets."

Origins of the Pansy

The pansy is a relative of the viola, a similar-looking flower that prefers shade as opposed to the pansy's preference for more sunlight. The pansy is believed to hail originally from France and, according to Free, its name also has it origins in the old French word "pensee," which means remembrance or thought and which is also derived from the Latin word, pensare. In the early 1800s, the English began to actively cultivate the wild pansy, and Free references the Middle English word "pancy" as yet another possible origin for the flower's name.

Pansy as a Color

A less widely known definition is the use of pansy to describe a color, namely "a deep to strong violet," according to Free

Pansy as a Person

Free states that the word "pansy" has also come to be a derisive term for a childish, timid or unassertive person, possibly a result of the plant's diminutive nature and the delicacy of the flowers.

Infamous Quote

Mike Easley, then governor of North Carolina, used the word "pansy" when endorsing Hillary Clinton for president in 2008, stating that, "I love nothing more than a powerful woman . . . [she] . . . makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy."

Keywords: the word pansy, pansies, definition of pansy

About this Author

Robin Fritz earned a B.A. in journalism and an M.B.A. from Indiana University, and works as a financial writer (18-plus years). She teaches business writing classes as an adjunct lecturer for IU. Ms. Fritz has also worked as a news correspondent, was a speech writer for the Indiana Senate, and was public information officer for the Indiana Dept. of Education.