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"I use the Pensieve. 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."
Albus Dumbledore explaining what a Pensieve is[src]
The Pensieve is an object used to review memories. It has the appearance of a shallow stone or metal basin, into which runes and strange symbols are carved and precious stones are fitted. It is filled with a silvery substance that appears to be a cloud-like liquid/gas; the collected memories of people who have siphoned their recollections into it.

Memories can 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 are entombed with their owners along with the memories they contain. Some witches and wizards will pass on their Pensive/ memories to another person, as is the case with the Hogwarts Pensieve.

Behind the scenes


The cabinet holding Albus Dumbledore's Pensieve

  • In the books, the Pensieve is said to be able to sit on a table, however, in the fourth film, the 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 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 adaption 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.


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.


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