Fiancé vs. Fiancée: What’s the Difference?

Are you recently engaged? Or do you plan to be?

If you answered yes to either of those questions (even if you answered no), it might be relevant for you to understand exactly what each word refers to before you start telling your friends about your new fiancé. Or is it fiancée?

What is the Difference Between Fiancé and Fiancée?

In this post, I will outline the differences between these two words, fiancé vs. fiancée. I will go over their spelling, their pronunciations, and, at the end, I will give you a trick to remember the difference.

After reading this post, you shouldn’t even again wonder, “Is it fiancée or fiancé?”

When to Use Fiancé or Fiancée

fiance versus fiancee meanings and pronunciationsBoth fiancé and fiancée are French words, coming into English sometime in the mid 19th century. They come from the Old French word fiance, meaning a promise, which ultimately comes from the Latin word fidere, meaning to trust.

As is the case with other French-to-English words (See blond versus blonde), fiancé and fiancée are gender specific.

Since English word endings do not connote gender, it can be confusing for writers when a foreign word that does have gender specific cases enters the language.

Fiancé (with one “e”) is a man who is engaged to be married.

  • She got engaged and moved into an apartment with her fiancé. –New York Times

Fiancée (with two “e’s”) is a woman who is engaged to be married.

  • A judge has approved a request by the fiancee of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez to add his last name to hers. –Washington Post

As you might imagine, the sex of one’s engaged partner makes a considerable difference. Calling a man’s fiancé his fiancé, or calling a woman’s fiancée her fiancée, raises a new issue in the reader’s mind. Is the writer referencing a same-sex marriage?

To avoid any possible confusion, it’s best to make the distinction between the words.

How to Pronounce Fiancé and Fiancée

what does fiance mean and what does fiancee meanWhether you’re saying fiancée or fiancé doesn’t matter, because the pronunciation of both words is the same.

But, how exactly is that?

According to Garner’s the preferred pronunciation of the word is “fee-ahn-say.”

The middlebrow American English pronunciation is, however, “fee-ahn-say.”

Do Fiancé and Fiancée Have Accent Marks?

Since fiancé and fiancée are words taken directly from a foreign language, the traditional rule would be to leave in any accent marks from the original language.

Thus, fiancé and fiancée usually have accent marks (as they do throughout this post).

However, when a foreign word becomes ingrained into English, it sometimes loses its traditional markings. Consider the word résumé. It is now very common to see this word as resumé or even resume, although most dictionaries and style guides still prefer the traditional résumé.

At this point, I still advise writers to use accent marks when using fiancé, fiancée, and résumé. This may change someday, but, for the time being, these are the preferred spellings.

Remember the Difference

Even for writers aware that there is difference between fiancée vs. fiancé, some still have trouble remember which word refers to which gender. Here’s an easy trick to remember.

Fiancé refers to a male that is engaged. Both fiancé and male have one “E” in them.

Fiancée refers to a female that is engaged. Both fiancée and female have two “E’s” in them.

Summary

These spellings are not interchangeable and refer to two different genders, making it important to recognize the distinction between the two.

A Fiancé is a man engaged to be married.

A Fiancée is a woman engaged to be married.

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