Fiancé vs Fiancée (What’s the Difference and Why?)

letters in sand

Many people have trouble understanding the difference between fiancé and fiancée. The main reason is that the pronunciation is the same. Because of this, people usually hear the word and search for a context to decipher which is which. However, it’s important to learn the difference between these words, since it’s bigger than most people think, and you can’t use them interchangeably.

If you’re planning on getting engaged, or already are, this is the perfect time to make a distinction between these two. If your boyfriend proposed to you, you need to know whether you should refer to him as your fiancé or fiancée.

To help you with this, we’re going to show you all the differences between these two words so that you can remember them once and for all.

Origin of Fiancé and Fiancée

Many people say that French is the language of love. There are many reasons why France is usually associated with romance, so it comes as no surprise that the English language adopted these words from French.

Even though this happened around the 19th century, the history of these words goes way back to the Roman Empire. They are derived from the Latin word ‘fidere’, which translates to ‘to trust’ in English. Centuries later, the French language made the distinction between ‘fiancé’ and ‘fiancée’, and the English borrowed them.

Today, we use these words to describe the person we’re engaged to. Unfortunately, many people still aren’t aware of the main differences between ‘fiancé’ and ‘fiancée’. So how to know if you’re using them correctly?

The Differences

There are three main things that you need to learn about the words ‘fiancé’ and ‘fiancée’:

  • Meaning
  • Spelling
  • Pronunciation

Usually, there are no problems when you’re saying them, because most people have accepted the same pronunciation, so there’s not that much confusion. However, you’re likely to make a mistake in writing if you don’t understand why their words are different.

To make sure you avoid these mistakes, here are all three differences explained:

hand with engagement ring

Meaning and Spelling

The most important difference in meaning between these words is the gender they refer to. The French language has different notations for male and female nouns. When the English language adopted these terms, it adopted both forms.

In French, adding ‘e’ at the end of a noun signifies the female gender. For this reason, when we say ‘fiancée’ we’re talking about a girl that is about to get married. On the other hand, a ‘fiancé’ is a man who is about to become a husband.

This isn’t the only word that people use wrongly. Another good example is ‘blond’ vs. ‘blonde’. The same rules apply here. If you’re using it as a noun, ‘blond’ refers to a man and ‘blonde’ to a woman. Do not to confuse this with ‘blond’ as an adjective, which can be used for both genders. However, the above is just strictly speaking, so don’t worry about it – blond and blonde are used interchangeably these days in all forms.

So if you want to tell your friends that you got engaged, you’ll refer to your future husband as your fiancé, while he’ll talk about you as his fiancée.

Another thing that people are not sure about is whether to use the accent marks or not. As a general rule, if the English language adopts a foreign word, that word should keep the accent marks. However, this isn’t always the case.

Take the word ‘résumé’ as an example. Today, very few people still use the accent marks, when in fact they should. Despite this, most dictionaries prefer the original format instead of ‘resume’.The same goes for ‘fiancé’.

Even though many people will write ‘fiance’ and ‘fiancee’, this is technically incorrect. If you want to make sure you’re using the word correctly, always use the accent marks.

woman's hand with ring

Pronunciation

Pronunciation is probably the biggest reason why people misuse these two words in the first place. The reason for this is that the pronunciation of both of these words is the same. However, many people are not sure whether they’re pronouncing them correctly.

According to Garner’s, ‘fee-ahn-say’ is the correct pronunciation. On the other hand, the middlebrow American English pronunciation is ‘fee-ahn-say’, so this is how the words are most commonly pronounced.

It doesn’t really make that much of a difference, no matter which one you’re using. As we’ve said, saying the word doesn’t create confusion, spelling usually does. Both pronunciations are correct, so you’re probably not making a mistake, no matter how you’re pronouncing it.

Why Is This Important?

Even though most people will understand you when you refer to the person you’re engaged to, learning the differences is very important. This applies mostly to when you’re writing these words.

For example, if a woman writes that she went with her fiancée, the reader might get confused, since this would imply a same-sex marriage. This is because in the English language, the ending of the word does not connote gender.

Also, an increasing number of people seems to use ‘fiancé’ for both genders. This also creates confusion, since you might have to specify the gender of the person you’re referring to.

In order to avoid any potential confusion, it’s best to remember these differences. It’s really easy to remember once you get it.

couple holding hand engagement ring

The Final Word

So to sum up, ‘fiancé’ refers to a man, while ‘fiancée’ refers to a woman. If you’re having difficulties remembering this, the easiest way would be to remember that ‘male’ has one ‘e’, and so does ‘fiancé’. On the other hand, both ‘female’ and ‘fiancée’ have two.

Also, no matter if you stress the second or third syllable when pronouncing them, you can’t really go wrong, because both of them are pronounced the same, but be careful with the spelling.

We hope you now have a better understanding of the differences between these two words, and that you have a better grasp of why these differences exist. Although no one can really blame you if you can’t make a distinction, it’s always the best to be certain that you’re using them correctly.