Fiancé or Fiancée?

Should I Write "Fiancé" or "Fiancée"?

The Quick Answer

  • Use "fiancé" for a man.
  • Use "fiancée" for a woman.
It is acceptable to write "fiance" and "fiancee" (i.e., to replace the é with e), but using é looks more elegant.
The words fiancé and fiancée both mean someone you plan to marry. So, why are there two spellings? Well, it depends whether you're talking about a male or a female.
  • A fiancé is a man who is engaged to be married.
  • A fiancée is a woman who is engaged to be married.
So, a fiancé is a husband-to-be, and a fiancée is a wife-to-be.
fiance and fiancee

Gender Distinction

Gender distinction with the "e" ending happens in other English words too. For example, it happens with blond/blonde and confidant/confidante:
  • A blond is man with fair hair. A blonde is a woman with fair hair.
  • A confidant is a trusted man. A confidante is a trusted woman.
Of course, fiancé derives from French, where adding an "e" to the end of a word is a common way of turning the gender of a noun from masculine to feminine. Here are some more examples:
  • cousin (male cousin) / cousine (female cousin)
  • chien (male dog) / chienne (bitch, female dog)
  • chat (male cat) / chatte (female cat)
  • lion (male lion) / lionne (lioness)
The pairings above are all pronounced differently. This is not true for fiancé and fiancée however. They are both pronounced feeONsay, which rhymes with Beyoncé. Their identical pronunciation contributes to the confusion between the two words.

The "E with Acute" (É)

In English, it is acceptable to replace the é (e with acute) with a normal e. However, fiancé and fiancé look far more elegant with é.

The easiest way to get the letter é is to copy and paste it. However, if this is not possible and if you're using a keyboard with a numeric pad*, hold down the Alt Key and type 0233. When you lift the the Alt Key, the é symbol will appear.

* This only works with a numeric pad to side of the keys. It will not work with the keys on the number row.

Learn more ways to get the e acute symbol.

Origin of Fiancé/Fiancée

The word fiancé originates from the verb "fier" ("to trust") and its noun "fiance." This, in turn, comes from the Latin verb "fidere" ("to trust"). In Middle French, "fiancer" meant "to promise," which aligns with the idea of a promise to marry. The -é ending signified the past participle (i.e., promised).

Fiancé and fiancée have moved directly from French into English, where they have maintained their original spellings and meanings.
author logo

This page was written by Craig Shrives.