Thursday, September 9, 2021

Language Of Confusion: -Sure, Redux

Doing another redo this week because… why not?
Sure, which really should have an H in there, showed up in the early thirteenth century meaning safe or secure before morphing to mean reliable, then confident, then resolute, and finally in 1803 meaning “yes”. It comes from the Old French seur/sur, safe, and that’s from the classical Latin securus, secure, which, yeah, is the origin word for secure. The reason for the sh- thing is thought to be because it was originally pronounced syu-, and I’m guessing sh- was easier to say and no one bothered to update the spelling.
Insure showed up in the mid fifteenth century as insuren, a variant of ensuren, which, yeah, is ensure. Both words come from the Anglo French enseurer, from the Old French ensurer, where the prefix en-, which means make here, and of course the rest is from sure. Insure and ensure are to make something secure, which, yeah, totally accurate. What a sensible etymology.
Finally, assure. It showed up in the late fourteenth century, coming from the Old French asseurer, and before that the Vulgar Latin assecurar. The prefix is from ad-, which means to, and with the rest coming from secure, the word is “to secure to”. How shockingly sensible. And then there’s reassure, which showed up in the late sixteenth century. No big mystery here. The re- means again, plus assure—to assure again. Or parsing it out even further, to secure to again.
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Fordham University


  1. You know, I had a couple words to suggest to you while you were on your break, and now I've forgotten what they were.

  2. I can get the link between sure and secure.


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