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 Dictionary.com, 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 Dictionary.com 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 Dicitionary.com
Pansy as a Person
Free Dictionary.com 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.
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."