Going to the Chapel…But With a Fiancé or Fiancée?
When it comes to engaged couples, the rules are changing slowly when it comes to proper uses of the words fiancé or fiancée.
When English decided to import the words for the man and woman engaged to be married back in the 19th century, there was one little detail that has created a slight degree of confusion in the translation. And that little detail has slowly, over time, made both versions of the word unnecessary in the minds of writers.
But first things first: the original versions were financé and fiancée. The accent over the e came immediately after the c in both words.
Actually, it’s not just an accent: it’s L’accent aigu, according to Grammarist, which forces the e to be pronounced ay.
Fiancé referred to the groom-to-be, while fiancée referred to the bride-to-be.
Which brings us to that little detail of French: their language places gender into common words. English does this as well at times; consider actor vs actress, for example.
But over time, fewer people felt it necessary to force gender into a term meaning one who is about to be married, choosing instead to allow the context to make it clear whether it’s the groom or the bride being referred to.
As a result, fiancé — the version with just one e at the end — has come to be used to refer to either the bride or the groom.
Very often these days, not only is the single e version becoming commonplace for either gender, I’m seeing the word written out more and more often without even the accent mark. This may have something to do with the special characters required for computers. On a Mac, for example, it’s easier to create the é than on a PC.
So don’t be surprised these days if you see fiance when the writer might have once written financé or even fiancée.