Printable Version
Pronunciation: e-spæwz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1 To adopt or advocate a position or belief. 2. To give (a woman) in marriage, to become engaged. 3. To marry.

Notes: Although spouse retained its original meaning, that meaning is rarely used in espouse. The abstract figurative sense has taken over. The noun and adjective from today's word is espousal. Someone who espouses a cause may be called an espouser.

In Play: We can see how "to marry" turned into "be married to a belief": "Ella Minnow espouses the belief that the membership in her political party should reflect the constituency of the country." Although rare, this word has been used recently in the second and third senses: "William Arami proposed to Marian Kine, unaware that she was already espoused to Jerry Attrick."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken over from Old French espouser "to betroth", a denasalized form of Latin sponsare "to betroth several times", the frequentative of spondere "to betroth". Old French didn't like S + consonant initial combinations, so it added an E before such like. Later, the S dropped out, as in Modern French épouse "(female) spouse". The Latin verb came from PIE spend-/spond- "to perform a ritual", source also of Latin sponsor "to sponsor in baptism", which English grabbed whole and orthographically untouched. In Greek the PIE word shows up as spendein "to take a libation (ritual drink)".

Dr. Goodword,

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