Nicole from Traverse
City asked about the difference between insure
and ensure. Then, later that week, at
a meeting of the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging, the same
question came up, this time with assure
added to the mix.
Approximately 700 years
ago, insure and ensure were synonyms, but in the 1600s, insure took on a
commercial meaning that it has retained to our day. It refers to paying for a
policy that protects against loss or damage by providing financial
compensation. So we insure our car, our house, and other valuable possessions.
To ensure is to
guarantee something. It is the act of making something happen or of making a
situation safe. A letter of recommendation from a famous public figure will ensure that a job seeker will
at least get an interview. A stoplight at an intersection ensures that drivers
will have a cue when to proceed safely.
To assure is to speak
positive, encouraging words to someone in order to boost confidence or trust. During
a violent thunderstorm, we assure young children that everything will be OK. I
assure my client that I will represent her in court to the best of my ability.
Sometimes assure bleeds over into ensure territory: we do the math carefully to
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