Why is French the language of love? Some say French sounds romantic. Perhaps it’s the soft syllables and flowing words? Not surprisingly, French lends the English language many “love” words like amorous, ardent, and embrace. Let’s learn about two French love words that are difficult to tell apart: fiancé and fiancée.
If you look up fiancé in a French dictionary, you will find some beautiful synonyms. Translated, your fiancé is your beloved, your future, your promised, your betrothed. A fiancé is someone you plan to marry. If you look up fiancée in the same dictionary, it may puzzle you to find the same definition and the same synonyms. What’s the difference between the two?
Though gender-neutral language is increasingly popular in English, words borrowed from French often distinguish between males and females. A fiancé is man who is engaged to be married. One way that French words specify gender is with their endings. In this case, the extra E at the end of fiancée indicates that the betrothed is a woman. You will find this all over the place in the French language. For example, a French speaker would refer to your male cousin as your cousin, but your female cousin as your cousine.
Cousin and cousine sound different in French. If fiancé and fiancée differed in pronunciation, it might be easier to remember which is which. Instead, you have to look out for that extra E. How do you pronounce fiancé? Exactly the same as you do fiancée! Fee-ON-say.
It’s not the only time English borrowed words and kept the feminine E; there’s blonde from Latin, for example. Speaking of examples, would you like to see some examples of these terms in modern usage? Here are some quotes from books:
Dear Diary, he began. On Friday I had a job, a fiancée, a home, and a life that made sense. (Well, as much as any life makes sense). Then I found an injured girl bleeding on the pavement, and I tried to be a Good Samaritan. Now I’ve got no fiancée, no home, no job, and I’m walking around a couple of hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal fruitfly.
—Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
“Are you her boyfriend?”
“…No, I’m her fiancé.” Nate said.
“We’ve been promised to each other since birth,” Summer added. “Our wedding isn’t until March.”
—Brandon Mull, The Candy Shop War
The French word fiancé is derived from a verb that means to promise. If you are promised to a woman, she is your fiancée. A future husband is a fiancé.
Do you agree? Is French a romantic language? If you liked these pretty-sounding terms for those who are engaged to be married, you might also like some of the other “love words” that are derived from this language. Why not research one of them today?