What’s the Word: Assure, Ensure and Insure


Honestly, I have had a bit of trouble with this blog post. In my previous attempt, I took a too-academic approach: what are the exact French, Latin and English roots? What does each word mean? What are the similarities and differences?  What a dry little post. No wonder I had trouble getting excited about it. But one morning, a light bulb went off: what if I viewed these words through the lens of my Deliberative™ theme, my #5 StrengthsFinder® theme?

The very nature of the root “secure” reflects a need that my Deliberative theme has—to minimize risk by anticipating roadblocks and having backup plans. I want to assure myself of a good outcome, and ensure against a “bad” outcome. Why do people buy insurance in the first place? To ensure that they will be able to recover from loss. Of course, there’s also the option (indeed, an imperative I have) to try and prevent loss in the first place—loss of time and money, if not loss of face or credibility.

Of course, in working on this post, I did go to the Oxford Dictionaries’ website to gather needed information. Like I thought, the three words have the root concept of safety and security. Rooted in Latin, the concept moves through French into English. When we say assure, we usually assure a person, helping them be more certain. Ensure is less personal, and means taking the steps to be sure of getting something. For instance, the reservation of a venue ensures that an event will likely happen. Without an object, it can mean ensuring against, or preventing—putting on sunscreen ensures you won’t get a sunburn. Insure typically applies to business—paying an amount to a company or government agency in exchange for protection from loss or recovery from loss.

Though the three words have subtly different meanings, they are all rooted in the concept of safety and security. All meanings appeal to my signature theme of Deliberative™, a theme that feels a responsibility to protect others, and myself, against risk and to ensure the best possible outcome.