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Ponder vs Meditate vs Muse vs Ruminate

Ponder, meditatemuseruminate can mean to consider or examine something attentively, seriously, and with more or less deliberation.

Ponder characteristically retains its original implication of weighing and usually suggests consideration of a problem from all angles or of a thing in all its relations in order that nothing important will escape one; unlike weigh in a related sense (see CONSIDER 1 ) it does not usually suggest a balancing that leads to a conclusion.

Meditate adds to ponder an implication of a definite directing or focusing of one’s thought; in intransitive use, especially, it more often suggests an effort to understand the thing so considered in all its aspects, relations, or values than an effort to work out a definite problem. In transitive use meditate implies such deep consideration of a plan or project that it approaches intend or purpose in meaning.

Muse comes close to meditate in implying focused attention but it suggests a less intellectual aim; often it implies absorption and a languid turning over of a topic as if in a dream, a fancy, or a remembrance.

Ruminate implies a going over the same problem, the same subject, or the same object of meditation again and again; it may be used in place of any of these words, but it does not carry as strong a suggestion of weighing as ponder, of concentrated attention as meditate, or of absorption as muse, and it more often implies such processes as reasoning or speculation.