French, from Middle French, from past participle of fiancer to promise, betroth, from Old French fiancier, from fiance promise, trust, from fier to trust, from Vulgar Latin fidare, alteration of Latin fidere
An engagement or betrothal is a promise to marry, and also the period of time between proposal and marriage – which may be lengthy or trivial. During this period, a couple is said to be betrothed, affianced, engaged to be married, or simply engaged. Future brides and grooms may be called the betrothed, a wife-to-be or husband-to-be, fiancées or fiancés, respectively (from the French word fiancé). The duration of the courtship varies vastly.
The origins of European engagement in marriage practice is found in the Jewish law (Torah), first exemplified by Abraham, and outlined in the last Talmudic tractate of the Nashim (Women) order, where marriage consists of two separate acts, called erusin (or kiddushin, meaning sanctification), which is the betrothal ceremony, and nissu'in or chupah, the actual ceremony for the marriage. Erusin changes the couple's interpersonal status, while nissu'in brings about the legal consequences of the change of status. (However, in the Talmud and other sources of Jewish law there is also a process, called shidduchin, corresponding to what today is called engagement. Marrying without such an agreement is considered immoral. To complicate matters,erusin in modern Hebrew means engagement, not betrothal.)
This was later adopted in Ancient Greece as the gamos and engeysis rituals, although unlike in Judaism, the contract made in front of witness was only verbal. The giving of a ring was eventually borrowed from Judaism by Roman marriage law, with the fiancé presenting it after swearing the oath of marriage intent, and presenting of the gifts at the engagement party.