Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-fai-êns Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To betroth, to pledge someone in marriage.

Notes: A match-maker, where that trade is still practiced, is an affiancer. A woman who has been affianced is a fiancée, while a man is a fiancé—both words related to the verb. The verb alone (no suffixes) may also itself be used as a noun, as 'to announce to a group of greatly disheartened young men the affiance of one's daughter'.

In Play: In Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (1603), Act V, scene 1, Mariana explains to Duke Vincenzio, "I am affianced this man's wife, as strongly As words could make up vows." Now, if you haven't proposed yet and are looking for an unusual way to express this important notion, you might say something like, "Mary Lou, I would like to affiance myself to you with this ring." (Of course, you can't be overly concerned with what her answer will be.)

Word History: English borrowed today's word, like so many others, from Old French affiance, the noun from affier "to trust to", inherited from Latin affidare, a verb based on ad- "(up)to" + fides "faith". Now, the adjective from fides is fidelis, as in the US Marine salute, "Semper fi!" a clipping of Semper fidelis "always faithful", and in the Christmas carol, Adeste fideles "Come All ye Faithful". The original source of fides is the Proto-Indo-European root bheidh- "to wait", which went on to become English bide, as in 'to bide one's time'. It is not surprising that [bh] at the beginning of a root becomes [f] in Latin; the same thing occurred with bhrat- "brother", which became brother in English and frater in Latin, and bher- "carry", which became bear in English and ferro in Latin.

Dr. Goodword,

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