Saturday, February 18, 2017
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 assure accuracy.
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