A Pensieve was a very rare and powerful magical item. They were a magical device used to review and store memories. When in use, a silvery light shines from its contents. This light was bright, whitish silver, cloud-like, and moving ceaselessly. Harry Potter thought the content in the basin looked like “light made liquid — or like wind made solid”.
- "One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one's mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one's leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form."
- — Dumbledore explaining the purpose of a Pensieve to Harry Potter[src]
It had the appearance of a shallow stone or metal basin, into which runes and strange symbols were carved and precious stones were fitted. It was filled with a silvery substance that appears to be a cloudy liquid/gas. The collected memories of people who had siphoned their recollections into it.
Once memories were siphoned into the Pensieve, they could then be viewed from a non-participant, third-person point of view. Owing to the highly personal nature of extracted memories, and the potential for abuse, most Pensieves were entombed with their owners along with the memories they contain. Some witches and wizards would pass on their Pensive/memories to another person.
Pensieves were intensely personal, since memories often held recollections of things one would wish to hide or forget. The Pensieve of a powerful witch or wizard was typically buried with them when they die. However, the Hogwarts Pensieve did not belong to a particular person, but to the school.
Behind the scenes
- In the books, the Pensieve is said to be able to sit on a table, however, in the fourth film, the Hogwarts Pensieve is much larger and is kept in a separate cabinet. This is contradicted by the sixth film, where it can sit on the table and looks as if it is made out of metal instead of stone. This contradiction is resolved in the eighth film, when Harry goes to the headmaster's office and removes the metal dish from the stone basin before watching Severus Snape's memories.
- In the film, the Pensieve while in its cabinet bears a strong resemblance to a baptismal font, specifically an aspersion or affusion font, primarily used for the baptism of infants.
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Harry used the pensieve, he was sitting in the court itself and watching the hearing as if he was part of it, while in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry is merely watching the memory but is not seen anywhere in it.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game) after the end credits in commemoration of the conclusion of the saga, Harry once again enters the Pensieve and sees flashbacks from all of the other video games with a message saying "Thanks for playing".
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Severus Snape's memories take the form of tears. As such, Snape specifically instructs Harry to put them in the Pensieve, something he does not do in the book, since Harry is familiar with the wispy form of thoughts.
- Albanian: Mendimore
- Bulgarian: мислоем (misloem) ("thought vessel", neologism from мисъл "thought" by analogy with водоем, "body of water")
- Catalan: Pensiu
- Chinese (Simplified): 冥想盆 (lit. "meditating basin")
- Chinese (Traditional): 儲思盆
- Croatian: Sito sjećanja ("seave of memory/memories")
- Czech: Myslánka (mysl "mind", slánka "salt cellar")
- Danish: Mindekar (minde "memory", kar "vascular")
- Dutch: Hersenpan (lit. "cranium", but literal "brain pan")
- Estonian: mõttesõel (mõte "thought", sõel "sieve")
- Faroese: Tankasíla (tanki "thought", síla "sieve")
- Finnish: ajatuseula (ajatus "thought", seula "sieve")
- French: Pensine (penser "to think", bassine "bowl of liquid, basin")
- German: Denkarium ("Thinkarium", most likely after terrarium)
- Greek, Modern: Κιβωτός των Στοχασμών ("The Ark of thoughts")
- Hebrew: הגיג) הגיגית "thought", גיגית "tub")
- HIndi: स्मृति पात्र (smr̥ti pātra) ("vessel of memory")
- Hungarian: merengő (a similar word-play: merengő "musing one", er(ít) "to draw from (something)", and reng "to rock/quake/vibrate")
- Icelandic: þankalaug
- Japanese: ペンシーブ(phonetic representation of the English "pensieve"), later, 憂いの篩 (urei no furui) (lit. "a sieve for worries") (Appears in the phonetic representation, uncomprehensible, until Harry asks about it in the narrative and its function is revealed)
- Italian: Pensatoio (pensare "to think")
- Norwegian: tanketank (pun on tanke "thought", and tank "tank")
- Polish: myślodsiewnia (myśl "thought" and odsiewać "to weed out")
- Portuguese: Pensatório ("Place to Think/Repository of thought")
- Portuguese (Brazil): Penseira (pensar "to think", peneira "sieve")
- Romanian: Pensiv
- Russian: Омут Памяти (Omut Pamyati, "memory pool"), Дубльдум (Dubl'dum, "double thought")
- Serbian: Сито-за-мисли (Sito-za-misli) ("sieve-for-thoughts")
- Slovak: mysľomisa (lit. "mindbowl")
- Slovenian: Mislito
- Spanish: Pensadero
- Swedish: Minnessåll (minne "memory", såll "sieve")
- Turkish: Düşünseli
- Ukrainian: Сито спогадів (Syto spogadiv) ("Sieve of memories")
- Vietnamese: (Chậu) tưởng ký ("Remembrance log (basin)")
Pensieve is portmanteau, combining the words ‘pensive’ and ‘sieve.’ The latter is an object in which something may be sorted, drained or separated, and ‘Pensive’ is derived from French, and originally from the Latin ‘pensare,’ meaning ‘to ponder,’ and in common English usage means ‘thoughtful’ or ‘reflective;’ thus a ‘pensieve’ allows for the sorting of thoughts, or memories. Pensive can also refer to a tense mood someone seems to be in, and indeed many of the memories Harry views in it are of tense or awkward moments.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened