What Is the Meaning of the Pansy Flower?

Written by erica bliss winston
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What Is the Meaning of the Pansy Flower?
Pansies in the garden. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Robert S. Donovan)

Flowers have always enchanted us. The botany, literature and lore of flowers describe the meaning.

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The pansy is named from the French word "pensee" meaning thoughts, in particular the thoughts of lovers. The myth grew that you could see a loved one in the face of the pansy.


Legend tells the flower was originally white, and blushed bright purple where it was pierced by Cupid's arrow. This accounts for the flower's reputation of bringing thoughts of loved ones.

The pansy flower resembles a face.
The pansy flower resembles a face. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Osamu Uchida)


The garden pansy sold at stores today originated in the early 19th century in England. William Thompson, a gardener on the estate of Lord Gambier, began crossing various Viola species with Viola tricolour to make a larger flower with a more pronounced "face." By the 1880s pansies were one of the most popular flowers and remain so to this day.


Shakespeare's famous character Ophelia used the meaning of the pansy to express herself in Hamlet: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts."

What Is the Meaning of the Pansy Flower?
Ophelia expresses her sadness with flowers. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of essers)

Lore of Flowers

In Victorian times, the language of flowers evolved into a parlour game for sending secret messages to your girlfriend. Books and lists were published giving each flower a meaning. A small bouquet of pansies meant "Think of me."

What Is the Meaning of the Pansy Flower?
A small bouquet of pansies. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of julie)

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