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Pensar, Pesadilla and Pensive, Compensate

The Latin pensare meant “to weigh”, in both senses: “to weigh something, such as gold, to get its value, usually to make a payment” or “to think about something deeply”.

From this word, we get a few Spanish words, including:

  • Pensar — to “think”, just a simplification and lightening of the original.
  • Pesadilla — with the diminutive ‑dilla ending added, it means “nightmare”. A dream is really just a small thought!

From the same Latin root, we get a few English words including:

  • Pensive — with the same original meaning as the Latin.
  • Compensate — which originally meant, “to counterbalance”, precisely what you do with a balance of justice!
  • Pansy — which is basically an insult for someone who spends too much time thinking!
  • Span — which originally meant to bind, and came from the original sense of weighing.
  • Poise — originally meant, “to have a certain weight,” which then came to mean “to have a certain look”.

The p‑n-s root (sometimes without the ‘n’) is visible in all words.


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