Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Ensure and Insure

Ensure vs Insure

‘Ensure’ and ‘insure’ are two similar words. They come from the same root words, have similar spellings and pronunciations, and some people use them interchangeably.

‘Ensure’ currently means to make certain of something, which is usually making sure that something will happen. This is usually used to talk about future events, and it is most often used when a person has taken an action to cause it to happen.

“I’ve ensured that we will have dinner there tonight, since I set the reservations and cleared our schedules.”
“Their candidate’s fumble ensures that ours has a better chance of winning the election.”

‘Insure’, on the other hand, is a more specialized word. It means to have or get insurance, which means to have a guarantee of payment if something goes wrong.

“I got my house insured against fire and flood damage.”
It can also mean the action of the company in providing insurance for a particular thing.

“We will insure your car against crashes and burglary for a reasonable fee.”

In most of the English-speaking world, that is the only meaning of ‘insure’. However, in some places – mainly the United States – ‘insure’ is also an accepted alternate spelling of ‘ensure’.

The two words have an interesting history. ‘Ensure’ came into the English language in the 14th century. Originally, it meant to make a promise to someone or to give them a pledge. ‘Insure’ popped up at around the same time as an alternate spelling, as this was a time when spellings did not have to be consistent.

Eventually, around the 18th century, the meaning of ‘ensure’ changed into its current state, which was to make certain of something. ‘Insure’, on the other hand, stayed close to the original meaning of ‘ensure’, which was a promise. Insurance is, after all, a promise made by the company stating that they will pay you money if something bad happens to the thing that is insured.

There was also a third word that had the same meaning: ‘assure’ also originally meant to make a promise or guarantee, though this has also changed. This one was separate from the other two. It came from a different word, though it did have a similar etymology. ‘Ensure’ came from the French word ‘seur’. That meant the same as the English word ‘sure’, and it came from the Latin word ‘securus’, which meant ‘carefree’. ‘Assure’ came from the French word ‘asseurer’, which also meant to guarantee something. That, however, also came from ‘seur’. The biggest difference between the two was the prefixes: ‘en-’ meant ‘make’ and ‘a-’ came from the Latin prefix ‘ad-’, which meant ‘to’.

The etymology is most likely the reason for the split in meanings. ‘Ensure’ has the meaning ‘make sure’, which is an active term. It fits well with the current meaning of taking an action to guarantee that something gets done.

The meaning of ‘assure’, which is ‘to sure’, is much more passive. It fits well with the current meaning of ‘assure’, which is to convince someone else of something. This is most often used to mean giving someone confidence in something. Similarly, it can also mean to convince someone that they or another object is trustworthy.

“He assured her that he was just as committed to it as she was.”
“The loud creaking of the door assured her that nobody could have entered it without her knowledge.”

To summarize, the word ‘ensure’ means to make sure that something will happen. ‘Insure’ means to get financial insurance for something, or to provide insurance to someone else. There is a related word, ‘assure’, which means to convince someone of someone or something else’s trustworthiness. All of them originally meant a guarantee, though only ‘insure’ currently has that meaning.


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