Learning a language’s grammatical concepts is arguably one of the most difficult things about learning any language. For example, for anyone who has ever learned a foreign language before, you know how difficult it is to memorize verb conjugations, different forms of pronouns, lists of noun rules, and various other grammar rules. And if you have ever learned more than one other language, it can be very easy to get them confused.
Welcome to English, a language that is considered to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to master due to the complexity of its rules and the fact that it actually breaks its own rules more often than not. The exceptions often outnumber the rules, and it can be very hard to keep track of what is right and what is wrong, especially if you find yourself working with several different groups of people with their own colloquialisms or slangs. English lends itself to several common grammar mistakes that beginners and experienced English speakers alike make often.
Another thing that can make the English language exceptionally difficult is that its grammatical concepts actually seem to bridge gaps in meanings and often employ the use of homonyms, words that sound the same but have different meanings. In addition, English also has several words that have very similar root words but actually have completely different uses.
In this article, let’s explore the words guarantee and guaranty, what they mean, learn their proper use, look for their synonyms, and learn their etymology and context.
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When trying to understand a word, it is important to first learn its definition before trying to incorporate it into your vocabulary. Otherwise, you end up sounding pretty dumb when you try to use it and use it incorrectly. Here is the definition of the word guarantee, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, “a formal assurance or a formal promise for the fulfillment of a condition”, or “an agreement by which one person undertakes to secure another in the possession or enjoyment of something”. A secondary definition is “an assurance of the quality of or of the length of use to be expected from a product offered for sale often with a promise of reimbursement” — essentially a money-back guarantee that offers repayment for a faulty product.
In total, there are just a couple of commonly accepted definitions for the word, and there is really only one spelling that is widely recognized. However, the operative word there is “widely”. The dictionary by definition cannot be the universal standard for all things grammar. There will be spellings, definitions, and use cases of specific words that are not in most dictionaries but are still used in specific areas or in specific colloquial contexts.
Is It Just a Spelling Error?
So, when comparing the words guarantee and guaranty, the question may arise: is the common term guaranty just a variant of guarantee? Or is it actually considered correct in some areas and contexts?
Well, actually, it is considered to be an “alternate” spelling of the word guarantee. While some people may consider this to be just a synonym for the incorrect spelling of a word, alternate spellings usually come from languages that span several cultures. For example, in England, the word color is spelled colour. The Queen’s English (or British English) often has varied spellings from American English used in the United States, and this is just due to etymology, which will actually be discussed at some length later in this article.
The Merriam Webster dictionary has a separate definition for the word guaranty, “an undertaking to answer for the payment of a debt or the performance of a duty of another in case of the other’s default or miscarriage as a legal term.”
He guaranteed that he would give me an engagement ring by Christmas.
I guarantee that I will pay back the lender.
What Part of Speech Are Guarantee and Guaranty?
Another good thing to learn before trying to fully incorporate a word into your vocabulary is which part of speech the word actually represents: wherein a sentence would the word guarantee belong?
Well, the word guarantee can actually be both a noun and a verb, and this is due to the fact that it actually fulfills both roles quite easily. A guarantee can be both a noun (like a written guarantee), or a verb, (“I guarantee”). The dictionary includes both types of definitions and lists the word as both parts of speech. Words like this that can take on multiple parts of speech can be awfully confusing due to the fact that you have to memorize spellings and suffixes for plurals and past tenses, which can make things difficult.
Again, this is part of what contributes to English being such a difficult language to learn: words can have different meanings and be the exact same word, or sometimes words that sound the same have completely different meanings, thus making learning English a very complicated process.
Etymology and History of Guarantee
The final step in learning where a word comes from is to explore its history, its etymology, and learn where it came from. According to EtymOnline.com, the word guarantee originally entered the English language in the late seventeenth century and was an altered form of the Spanish word “garante”. After a period of time, that word in turn derives from the Old French word “garant”, which means defender, protector, warranty, or pledge. While many words in English today are derived from ancient languages like Latin or Greek, this word almost entirely gets its etymology from Western European languages like Spanish, French, and Germanic languages, such as the Anglo-French garantie.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that culture drives language, not the other way around. The frequency of use of a certain word in a certain context with a certain definition is what eventually determines whether or not that word is considered “proper” or not, so it is important to know your audience and to be able to determine who you are speaking to. Communicating directly with your audience will enable you to better understand when to use certain words correctly.
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.