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.


What’s the Word?

What’s the Word?

Welcome to my new feature, in which I write about my love of words and my fascination with their origins, meanings and usage.

Words that sound the same, but that are spelled differently, are called homophones. One set of homophones  includes the words “pique,” “peek” and “peak.” All sound the same, but of course mean different things. And because they sound the same, they are often misused.  Another trait these three words share is that they serve as more than one part of speech. Take “peak” for example. It can be a verb, meaning to reach the highest point. Or it can be a noun, meaning that highest point. Peak can even be an adjective, to describe one’s best performance.

The next word that sounds the same, “peek” can also be a noun or verb. To peek means to steal a look at something (“Don’t peek.”). As a noun, it means to take a peek, or sneak a peek, maybe when you’re not supposed to.

And lastly, “pique,” derived from French, is a verb and a noun.  The meanings of the word, as different parts of speech, are related. As a verb, “pique” can mean to arouse curiosity or irritation (or even anger). As a noun, the word is often used in the phrase “a fit of pique,” meaning the irritation aroused by a slight. In both cases, an emotion is aroused.

How might these words be used in a sentence? “My curiosity was piqued after I took a peek inside the book.” Or “My parents were piqued when I took a peek at—and shook—the presents underneath the Christmas tree.” Another example is “I thought it wise not to take a peek at a friend’s face, when at the peak of my pique (irritation) with her remark. Her annoyance might be piqued by my frown.”

I hope that that the interest of wordsmiths is “piqued” by this peek at three oft-confused words that sound the same, but have different meanings.

Source for word meanings and usage: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us, accessed 11/30/15.