By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. They ensure the proper functioning of our services, analytics tools and display of relevant ads. Learn more about cookies and control them

Not yet registered? Create a OverBlog!

Create my blog

Ensure versus insure: The difference explained

Insure versus ensure - which word is the most appropriate in which context? The two words appear to have identical meanings on many levels, but there are some important subtle differences. This article explores the history of the words, highlighting their divergences and similarities.

Etymology

The prefixes en- and in- mean basically the same thing. In- was the Latin prefix meaning "into". When adapted into Old French, the Frankish language which was basically dominated by Vulgar Latin with a small input of Germanic and Gaelic, in- became en-. When again adapted into English, it was common for the Old French variations to be reconverted back to the Latin originals. This trend was not applied rigorously, hence the existence in English of a few curious pairs like inquire and enquire, both meaning the same thing. As the French language developed however, the prefix en- did not maintain a stable meaning. Instead, it accumulated some other senses, one of which was "to make". This has survived in modern English verbs like endear and encourage.

The introduction of "ensure" and "insure" into English

The late 14th century, French verb enseurer, combining the prefix en- with seur ("sure"), meant "to make sure". Enseurer was related to the other Old French word asseurer, which stemmed from the Latin prefix ad-, meaning "to" or "toward", and again seur. These two words were transmitted to English as ensure and assure respectively. Following the pattern described above, insure was created in the middle of the 15th century as an identical variation of ensure, harking back to the original Latin prefix. The verb assure, however, accumulated an additional meaning, "to make sure/protect against damage by financial payments". In the 1630s, this meaning was adopted by insure instead, which replaced assure in this sense. For ensure, the definition never changed, it always meant and continues to mean "to make sure".

Ensure and insure in modern English

Now that we understand the origins of the two words, should we use insure or ensure? To define ensure has never been a difficult task. The meaning "to make sure" leaps out from its etymological history, and it can be used in exactly this sense with no variation. Regarding insure, the definition is clear concerning its primary meaning - it is the same as ensure. The words can be used interchangeably in this sense. Its secondary meaning, however, "to make sure/protect against damage by financial payments", stems from cultural developments and not etymological trends. The important point is this: if your context demands a word meaning "to make sure", you can use either ensure or insure. However, if your context demands a word relating to protection against damage by making payments, you can use insure only.

Same category articles Literature

A guide to GMAT books

A guide to GMAT books

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a computer-based test that tests the applicants across mathematics and English to help them apply for business degree courses. Close to 2,000 universities in the world require GMAT score. As this test allows you to apply to top business schools such as Stanford University and Harvard Business School, you should take help of a strategy guide for GMAT test preparation.
Book review: The No Cry Sleep Solution

Book review: The No Cry Sleep Solution

The No Cry Sleep Solution is a baby-friendly answer to sleep training. The world of parenting offers many sleep solutions for fraught parents, but not all of them are ideal for your little one. The sleep techniques featured in The No Cry Sleep Solution do not involve methods such as crying it out. Find more about this sleep training guide in this article.
Where to find free Christian books

Where to find free Christian books

There are many sources of free Christian books available from Christian Science Reading Rooms, religious book distributors, and online websites. The literature includes a broad range of religious books available both as free books, free PDF files, or downloadable electronic files. Find more in this article.
A review of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D

A review of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D

In Feeling good, Dr. David D. Burns, puts forth key tips to healing yourself from anxiety, fear, depression, moods and harsh self-criticism with cognitive therapy. This theory although new, has some similarities to the theory from French psychologist, Emil Coue (1857-1926) who had his patients proclaiming "everyday I'm getting better and better".