Fiancé, Fiancée: How Do You Pronounce Them?

My friends have fallen prey to an engagement epidemic. And when you’re the first to know, you want to tell everyone else you know, too.

But spreading the news that your two best buds are affianced can be tricky.

You can look up both spellings to make sure you get the mass mailing right. I was stymied, however, when it came to regular, real-time conversation.

Different on Paper, Same in Speech

If your engaged guy friend is a fiancé, and your engaged girl friend is a fiancée, wouldn’t you expect to preserve that difference when talking to people? At the very least, it would help your grandfather understand exactly what’s going on with your best friend Lindsay Lohan:

Her fiancé’s name is Sam Ronson, you say? Well isn’t that nice, dear.”

Get your grandfather an e-mail address, because without some serious pronoun work on your part, he would understand more by reading about the engagement than he would by hearing it in conversation.

While there are three acceptable American English pronunciations for these French terms, the word sounds exactly the same whether it’s fiancé or fiancée.

So How Do I Say It?

For the record, Webster’s offers a male voice intoning fee-ahn-SAY as the proper pronunciation for fiancé and fiancée. I prefer fee-AHN-say, which Bartleby also deems acceptable.

You’ll just have to use context to get the word out to your friends. That, or cue cards.

32 Comments »

  • Dr. Moss said:  
    (On 5 August 2008 at 1:48 PM)

    Very interesting. My late father, in his inimitable West Virgina fashion, used to refer to both as a “fi-ancy” (”fi” as in hi-fi). But I note that you refer to the English pronunciation. Do you mean English as in England or English as in the U.S.? Is there a difference? We all know the English don’t really know how to speak the language (”Two peoples separated by a common language.”).

  • Dr. Moss said:  
    (On 5 August 2008 at 1:49 PM)

    “i”……that’s the “i” that was missing from “Virginia”!!

  • Casey said:  
    (On 5 August 2008 at 5:55 PM)

    Oho, you’re right Dr. Moss: I meant to say American English there. I’ll be making a change to that now.

  • Intelligent Person said:  
    (On 26 July 2009 at 10:12 AM)

    Americans are dumb and pronounce the word wrong. It’s actually pronounced “fee-AHN-seh.”

  • Anonymous said:  
    (On 16 November 2009 at 4:40 PM)

    Actually, French tends to stress the last syllable, so it would be fee-ahn-SAY although both are right in English.

  • Anonymous said:  
    (On 16 November 2009 at 4:40 PM)

    By the way, Americans are not dumb

  • Anonymous2 said:  
    (On 10 January 2010 at 5:29 PM)

    I wouldn’t say that Americans are dumb, but I would say that American English is a raped language. English in general has been rather raped, but American English is super raped, like prison raped.

  • Casey said:  
    (On 11 January 2010 at 4:54 PM)

    And I would say that last comment looks very troll-like to me. In any case, if you go back to my discussions of prescriptivism vs. descriptivism, one person’s “rape” is another person’s evolution of language.

  • uniquehoodia said:  
    (On 3 August 2010 at 10:00 PM)

    Yes, French tends to stress the last syllable, so it would be fee-ahn-SAY although both are right in English.

  • Sun said:  
    (On 16 August 2010 at 12:15 AM)

    I tend to respect the pronunciation from the word origin (French). I will agree with fee-ahn-SAY if that is how the French like it. They are sticklers for pronunciation. Yes, Americans are dumb … how did voilà turn into wala? Stupid Americans.

  • Sue said:  
    (On 13 December 2010 at 2:15 AM)

    ‘Intelligent Person said:
    (On 26 July 2009 at 10:12 AM)
    Americans are dumb and pronounce the word wrong. It’s actually pronounced “fee-AHN-seh.”’

    If you’re what qualifies as intelligent then that is very sad.

  • Sue said:  
    (On 13 December 2010 at 2:17 AM)

    ‘Sun said:
    (On 16 August 2010 at 12:15 AM)
    I tend to respect the pronunciation from the word origin (French). I will agree with fee-ahn-SAY if that is how the French like it. They are sticklers for pronunciation. Yes, Americans are dumb … how did voilà turn into wala? Stupid Americans’

    Americans don’t say “wala”. I think you are projecting.

  • Person123 said:  
    (On 4 April 2011 at 11:29 PM)

    Better to be an American than a snail eating, dirty, smelly, yellow tooth, snotty, nose obstructed Fench guy/girl. (the french are discusting, they ivented perfume because they did not bathe) how do you like that hu? Dont jump into conclusions, i bet the average american has a better personality in one finger nail than you do in your whole foul smelling body!

  • Polite Person said:  
    (On 3 May 2011 at 5:05 PM)

    I am an intelligent, well-educated and hard-working American. To say Americans are dumb reveals prejudice. Would you say, “Africans are dumb,” “Mexicans are dumb,” or that Jews are dumb?I hope not. Prejudice is prejudice. I have a hard time respecting the intelligence, judgment, and opinions of people who make sweeping ethnic slurs and generalizations. As for Person123, please correctly spell and capitalize the words you use to make your own inaccurate and insulting generalizations of the French. Notice that the words “American” and “French” are supposed to be capitalized and the word is “French,” not “fench.” Person123 also mispelled the words disgusting and invented. If you are going to insult someone, at least don’t make yourself appear to be uneducated in addition to prejudiced. Now, can everyone just be nice AND spell and capitalize correctly?

  • Chris said:  
    (On 30 August 2011 at 10:24 AM)

    Person123, you are not helping the cause. You sound like a dumbass.

  • Voice of Reason said:  
    (On 14 December 2011 at 2:51 PM)

    Dumb and smart people exist in every country , but only true idiots argue about it on a random website. I mean really - are we all in 4th grade again? Seriously?

  • WeAreHuman said:  
    (On 14 January 2012 at 1:47 AM)

    Please stop arguing everyone. It’s like we are in Kindergarten. I say FEE-AHN-SAY for both. Correcting grammar is a pain in the ass to me. Polite Person, you sound like a smart-ass. Voice of Reason, thank you for understanding how immature people truly are.

  • WeAreHuman said:  
    (On 14 January 2012 at 1:49 AM)

    Sun, stop trolling. Americans are not dumb. Most Americans are intelligent. The real dumb-asses are people like you. I’m not arguing, I’m stating my opinion. :P.

  • LovelyAmericans said:  
    (On 17 January 2012 at 8:29 PM)

    Alright people, you need to stop saying American’s are dumb. In fact, most of us are very intelligent…Just because our words are pronounced differently than how you would pronounce them, does not make us dumb.

  • princess said:  
    (On 3 April 2012 at 6:50 PM)

    for real fam we re not in kindergarten again and ii is real rude calling americans are dumb

  • Anonymouse said:  
    (On 29 June 2012 at 2:45 PM)

    May I just say that whilst everyone else seems to be defending the Americans, I am extremely offended by the first comment?

    The English have no problem speaking their own language. Take no offence, but remember, that England came first, lovelies.

  • Anonymouse said:  
    (On 29 June 2012 at 2:45 PM)

    And the name is supposed to be ‘Anonymouse’ before anyone jumps on me for spelling. ;)

  • Lapel Pins said:  
    (On 30 November 2012 at 10:40 AM)

    Actually, Americans are very smart. It’s ‘Mericans that are dumb. After the coup of George W. Bush, ‘Mericans came to power. Looks can be deceiving. You are not an American just because you wear an American flag lapel pin.

  • Kelsey said:  
    (On 7 January 2013 at 7:44 PM)

    Yes it is pronounced Fee-ahn- SAY but as long as you practice it will work.
    And I have to second on the Anonymouse stating said Brits starting said English vocabulary.
    Why can’t chips just be chips instead of fries?!
    I bid you all good day.

  • Christine said:  
    (On 25 May 2013 at 3:07 AM)

    Oh my god. I’m from Australia and I can’t believe that you people out there can’t just respect the French way of pronunciating their own language. Grow the “f” up! Respect all nationalities and their languages. So there!

  • Anthropologirl said:  
    (On 9 July 2013 at 6:59 PM)

    Ah, wow. I was curious as to whether any difference exists in the pronunciation, and this chat came up as a first search result…

    Opinions being what they are, as a trilingual graduate student I must agree that the French retain the right to establish the pronunciation of their own word, which they do so specifically via the Academie Francaise…

    I must shout out to Ms. Australia for her comment- I agree entirely, darling. And if I may risk a cultural generalization, I have yet to meet an Australian who wasn’t an absolute joy to speak to. Though I have been sharply rebuked by more than one New Zealander for guessing, wrongly, that they were Australian. I’m not sure the nature of the tension there, but will try and educate myself about possible past conflicts between the two cultures??

    Having only come on here to figure out what to call myself and my now prometido significant other :) , I had to chime in, being an anthropologist and all. None of you are wrong except those ignorantly bashing what they do not care to understand. And though I find the British accent to be lovely to the ear in all its regional varieties, I do believe that each English speaking culture has its rights to unique variants in pronunciation and lexicon, as long as they follow the basic constants of the language’s grammar.

  • DeterGent said:  
    (On 19 July 2013 at 6:47 AM)

    I think the general practice of pronouncing words according to their country of origin can be a useful one, but how many people who say they go with the French pronunciation of ‘fiance(e)’ will refer to that country’s capital as ‘Paree’?

    (Interestingly (well, perhaps not), ‘dumb’ isn’t generally a word used in Britain to denote lack of intelligence, though it is proliferating with the increased popularity of American culture.)

  • Vincent said:  
    (On 19 July 2013 at 9:22 AM)

    Americans imitating the French put the stress on the last syllable but the French don’t do that. In general they stress the long syllable equally.

    It is also troubling that the American imitation-French pronunciation of “lingerie” is catching on here in England. “LonjerAY” is quite wrong. “Lan-zhair-ee” with equal stress is a better approximation.

  • Vincent said:  
    (On 19 July 2013 at 9:28 AM)

    PS I was wrong. The French say lan-zhree, the second syllable being shortened to the point of inaudibility.

  • some guy said:  
    (On 18 February 2014 at 4:26 PM)

    many modern linguist actually believe that American English is more similar to Victorian English or the English of Shakespeare than British English is, in particular the English spoken in what is often considered very red neck areas of the Appalachian and Ozark mountains and that in general, British English has changed more since the time of the American Revolution than American English has. I don’t think either is more correct than the other and quite frankly, both countries have “raped” the language and some of the worst offenders are here in Britain. Really, some of the absolute worst English I have ever heard spoken has been in England or in either more urban areas of the US or what is referred to as “the deep south.”

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