AskDefine | Define pansy

Dictionary Definition



1 large-flowered garden plant derived chiefly from the wild pansy of Europe and having velvety petals of various colors [syn: Viola tricolor hortensis]
2 a timid man or boy considered childish or unassertive [syn: sissy, pantywaist, milksop, Milquetoast]
3 offensive terms for an openly homosexual man [syn: fagot, faggot, fag, fairy, nance, queen, queer, poof, poove, pouf]

User Contributed Dictionary



From the French pensée, thought, as the plant resembles someone that is in deep thought, with a lowered head.


  1. Common name for a cultivated flowering plant, Viola tricolor hortensis, derived from heartsease; many garden varieties are hybrids.
  2. A deep purple colour, like that of the pansy.
    pansy colour:   
  3. In the context of "pejorative|slang": A male homosexual, especially one who is effeminate.
  4. A timid man or boy.





  1. Wimpy; spineless; feeble.
  2. Of a deep purple colour, like that of the pansy.



Derived terms

Extensive Definition

The pansy or pansy violet is a plant cultivated as a garden flower. Pansies are derived from Viola tricolor also called the Heartsease or 'Johnny Jump Up', stepmothers flower,or ladies delight. However, many garden varieties are hybrids and are referred to as Viola × wittrockiana but sometimes they are listed under the name Viola tricolor hortensis. The name "pansy" also appears as part of the common name of a number of wildflowers belonging, like the cultivated pansy, to the genus Viola. Some unrelated species, such as the Pansy Monkeyflower, also have "pansy" in their name.

Cultivation, breeding and life cycle

The pansy has two top petals overlapping slightly, two side petals, beards where the three lower petals join the center of the flower, and a single bottom petal with a slight indentation.


Stem rot

Stem rot, also known as pansy sickness, is a soil-borne fungus and a possible hazard with unsterilized animal manure. The plant may collapse without warning in the middle of the season. The foliage will flag and lose color. Flowers will fade and shrivel prematurely. Stem will snap at the soil line if tugged slightly. The plant is probably a total loss unless tufted. The treatment of stem rot, includes the use of fungicides such as Cheshunt or Benomyl , which are used prior to planting. Infected plants are destroyed (burned) to prevent the spread of the pathogen to other plants.


The plant should be watered every other day, and watering should never be missed for more than three days. The plant should never be over watered.

Leaf spot

Leaf spot (Ramularia deflectens) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include dark spots on leaf margins followed by a white web covering the leaves. It is associated with cool damp springs.


Mildew (Oidium) is a fungal infection. Symptoms include violet-gray powder on fringes and underside of leaves. It is caused by stagnant air and can be limited but not necessarily eliminated by spraying (especially leaf undersides).

Cucumber mosaic virus

The cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted by aphids. Pansies with the virus have fine yellow veining on young leaves, stunted growth and anomalous flowers. The virus can lay dormant, affect the entire plant and be passed to next generations and to other species. Prevention is key: purchases should consist entirely of healthy plants, and pH-balanced soil should be used which is neither too damp nor too dry. The soil should have balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Other diseases which may weaken the plant should be eliminated.


Slugs and snails

To ward off slugs and snails, sharp, gritty sand can be laid, or the soil can be top-dressed with chipped bark. The area should be kept clean of leaves and foreign matter, etc. Beer in little bowls buried to the rims in the flower beds will also keep slugs and snails at bay.


To combat aphids, which spread the cucumber mosaic virus, the treatment is to spray with diluted soft soap (2 ounces per gallon).


The Universal Plus series of 21 cultivars covers all the common pansy colours except orange and black.

Name origin and significance

The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée meaning "thought", and was so named because the flower resembles a human face; in August it nods forward as if deep in thought. Because of this the pansy has long been a symbol of Freethought and has been used in the literature of the American Secular Union. Humanists use it too, as the pansy's current appearance was developed from the Heartsease by two centuries of intentional crossbreeding of wild plant hybrids. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) uses the pansy symbol extensively in its lapel pins and literature.
The word "pansy" has indicated an effeminate male since Elizabethan times and its usage as a disparaging term for a man or boy who is effeminate (as well as for an avowedly homosexual man) is still used. (There is a queercore musical band called Pansy Division, drawing on this association.) The word "ponce" (which has now come to mean a pimp) and the adjective "poncey" (effeminate) also derive from "pansy".

Pansies in the arts and culture

The pansy remains a favorite image in the arts, culture, and crafts, from needlepoint to ceramics. It is also the flower of Osaka, Japan.
  • In 1827, Pierre-Joseph Redouté painted Bouquet of Pansies.
  • In 1926, Georgia O'Keeffe created a famous painting of a black pansy called simply, Pansy. She followed with White Pansy in 1927.
  • D. H. Lawrence wrote a book of poetry entitled Pansies: Poems by D. H. Lawrence.
  • In William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, the juice of a pansy blossom ("before, milk-white, now purple with love's wound, and maidens call it love-in-idleness") is a love potion: "the juice of it, on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote (fall in love) upon the next live creature that it sees." (Act II, Scene I see also: Oberon at II, i). Since the cultivated pansy had not yet been developed, "pansy" here means the wild Heartsease, and the idea of using it as a love potion was no doubt suggested by that name. The folkloric language of flowers is more traditional than scientific, with conventional interpretations, similar to the clichés about animals such as the "clever fox" or "wise owl". Ophelia's oft-quoted line, "There's pansies, that's for thoughts", in Hamlet (Act IV, Scene V) comes from this tradition: if a maiden found a honeyflower and a pansy left for her by an admirer, it would mean "I am thinking of our forbidden love" in symbol rather than in writing.

External links

commons-inline Viola x wittrockiana


pansy in Czech: Violka zahradní
pansy in German: Garten-Stiefmütterchen
pansy in Spanish: Viola × wittrockiana
pansy in French: Viola ×wittrockiana
pansy in Hebrew: אמנון ותמר
pansy in Luxembourgish: Pensée
pansy in Lithuanian: Darželinė našlaitė
pansy in Japanese: パンジー
pansy in Polish: Fiołek ogrodowy
pansy in Portuguese: Amor-perfeito
pansy in Swedish: Penséer

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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