Fiancé vs. Fiancée: How to Know the Difference Between the Two
Whether you're newly engaged or an etymology nerd, knowing fiancé vs. fiancée can help you properly address people and yourself. But don't let the accent fool you. Once you remember the fiancé meaning, you'll be a pro at writing the correct word while texting your friends. We break down what fiancé and fiancée mean, the difference between the two words and their origins. And we know not everyone wants to use this traditional term, so we included a list of gender-neutral alternatives to fiancé that anyone can use too.
In this article:
What Does Fiancé Mean?
The fiancé meaning and definition is a man who's engaged to be married—pronounced [fee - ahn - say]. (Psst, the word rhymes with Beyoncé.) Some people write the word without the acute accented "e" but that changes the word's pronunciation and causes it to lose its French origin.
If you're asking yourself if your fiancé or fiancée is still your boyfriend or girlfriend, the answer is yes. They are still your partner in crime, but they just got a title promotion that puts them one step closer to being your boo legally on paper. Speaking of legalities, unfortunately, you and your fiancé(e) don't get any of the marriage benefits, like tax deductions or sharing health insurance, until you both say, "I do."
Oh, and don't worry about how long you can be a fiancé(e) for. According to The Knot 2022 Real Wedding Study, the average engagement length is 15 months, but that doesn't mean you can't bask in the premarital bliss with your partner for as long as you want. Take time planning, saving money or whatever you have to do with your fiancé(e) "The Five-Year Engagement"-style (but without all the drama).
Fiancé vs. Fiancée: What's The Difference?
Even though the two words are pronounced the same way, you may wonder, "Fiancée vs. fiancé...how do I know which one to use?" Since these words are appropriated from French, they have gendered meanings, unlike English. Fiancée is a woman who's engaged and fiancé refers to an engaged man. So if one were to stick to the traditional use of the words, anyone who identifies as a man and is engaged is someone's fiancé, and anyone who identifies as a woman is someone's fiancée.
- "HEY! I'm Jules' fiancé, George. Just in town for a quick pre-conjugal visit, if you catch my drift." – My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
- "Why'd you tell your fiancée you saved an old lady?" – The Wedding Planner (2001)
- "I can pretend to be the doting fiancé. That's easy. But for you, that's going to require that you stop snacking on children while they dream." – The Proposal (2009)
- "I'm not a foreman in one of your mills you can command. I'm your fiancée!" – Titanic (1997)
- "Oh, look at that. It's my fiancé calling. Hey, baby, what's up?" – Bridesmaids (2011)
If you're an engaged same-sex couple, there isn't as much confusion because you and your partner would use the same word when referring to one another. Also, according to Merriam-Webster, "We have, as of this date, no evidence suggesting that the meaning of either word is affected by the gender of the person to whom the 'fiancé' or 'fiancée' is engaged."
Where Does The Word Fiancé Come From?
Now that we've covered the meaning of fiancé and its feminine counterpart, let's discuss the origin of the word fiancé. Like many wedding terms, like bouquet and appliqué, "fiancé" is borrowed from the French language. Etymology experts say the word comes from Middle French and is the past participle of "fiancer," which means to promise or betroth. The two words look very similar, so it's easy to see the connection. There isn't an exact text we can point to, but historians estimate that "fiancé" was first used in 1838.
Alternatives To Using The Word Fiancé
Some couples don't like the word "fiancé" because it sounds stuffy and not romantic, while others want an option that doesn't depend on their partner's gender. And to answer your question, "Is fiancé gender neutral?" Yes and no. When said aloud the word is gender-neutral because it's pronounced the same as fiancée, but technically it's a French masculine word.
Many people use "fiance," without the accented "e," to eliminate the word's gender and use it for any engaged person. But if that doesn't feel right to you, don't worry. There are gender-neutral terms that aren't as confusing as "fiancé" that are unique. Here are some of the most popular gender-neutral titles for engaged couples:
- My betrothed
- My future mate
- My spouse-to-be
- My intended
- My partner
- My future spouse