Someone once said, “English is a German language with a Latin vocabulary.”

We can see the truth of that statement in the word fiancée.  This word came up this morning in a French class I teach.

In French, a fiancée is a woman who has promised to marry.  The masculine form is fiancé.  Both come from the French verb meaning “to get engaged”, fiancer.  Fiancer can also mean, “to betroth”.  Betroth is form Old English.  More on that in a bit.

Fiancée ultimately comes form the Latin word for faith, fides.   The same Latin root gives us words like fidelity, bona fide, and the once popular dog name, Fido.

Betrothed means essentially the same thing as fiancée.  In Old English, the prefix “be” meant completely, or throughly.  The Old English word for truth was treowðe.  Like a faithful fiancée, the betrothed was “completely truthful”.

Though the words are similar, over time, the French word won out over the Old English word.  The “Latin” word replaced the “Germanic”.


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Or, if you want to skip Latin, and just jump right into learning English words from Latin and Greek roots, you may enjoy the series Word Up!  Warning.   Word Up! is a bit wacky.  You will learn a lot… but, you may find yourself rolling your eyes, too.
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