Grammar Guerilla: Agreement v Agreeance

Guerilla GorillaOne of the weirder abstract nouns that has popped up recently is the word agreeance, as it, “I am in agreeance with that position.” A noun is a person, place, or thing. An abstract noun is a concept. One cannot see, touch, smell, taste, or hear an agreement in the same way we see a truck, hear a sound, taste a sandwich, or smell smoke. English has multiple ways of forming abstract nouns. The —ance ending is one of those along with —ion, and —ment. To anticipate an objection, yes, I’m aware that agreeance is an ancient English word, going back to at least the 16th century. I also suspect, however, that its rise is not because of a renewed appreciation for an ancient, if infrequently used, word. Rather, I suspect that the word is being used because people have forgotten about or are unaware of agreement.

Its rise is, I suspect, a symptom of the decline of literacy. Americans are nothing if not resourceful. People know the verb to agree and they know how to form abstract nouns with the use of —ance, and so, in the absence of the standard noun agreement, people, particularly in the spoken-word media turn to agreeance as a substitute. I first heard it on my favorite Omaha sports/talk station, 1620 The Zone/KOZN (discussing the dismal state of Nebraska football). One of the hosts uses this word frequently. He favors neologisms so its use is not a surprise but then I began to notice its use elsewhere. This makes me think that its use is spreading.

If it is an old English word and if its use is being revived, even if accidentally, why am I complaining? For two reasons. I’ll address the second below. The first is aesthetic. I don’t like the word. It isn’t pleasing for the vowels ee to be followed by ance. That’s a completely subjective judgment but I wonder if that’s not why it fell out of use. Agreement is an old Anglo-Norman word with connections to a post-classical Latin noun. The abstract ending follows a consonant and is easier to say.

To anticipate another objection: Yes, I celebrate the flexibility, adaptability, and inventiveness of the English language but it’s one thing to make up a new, useful word to fill a need. I cringe, however, when English speakers make up words because they are ignorant of or have forgotten a perfectly good, standard word. There’s nothing wrong with agreement. It’s not an archaism—though arguably agreeance is. The use of agreeance, in most cases, is just linguistic antinomianism. That is irritating.

The point of the post is not to say, “don’t use the abstract noun agreeance.” English is blessed with an abundance of riches but if what you meant to say was agreement and you used agreeance because it sounded like what you wanted but didn’t know about agreement then that’s something of which English users need to be aware.

Arguably, the use of agreeance for agreement is the linguistic equivalent of using a crescent wrench in place of a combination wrench or a socket wrench. You can do it but it always leaves a little damage behind. If you want to use agreeance, fine, whatever, but at least be aware that the sturdy old agreement is standing by in the tool box.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Have agreement and agreeance really always meant exactly the same thing? After all, sentiment and sentience don’t, do they? Is it possible that history is littered with agreements that were not agreeances?

  2. Will you be writing a Grammar Guerilla on the term “impactful” any time soon? I am convinced this is not a real word but I see it all the time.

  3. Interesting – I’ve never heard the word agreeance, but I too would wonder if it always meant the same thing as agreement (not that most users would know or care about any possible differences).

    I heard a sermon once in which the pastor was preaching on our union with Christ, except he kept calling it our unity with Christ. It bothered me, first because I don’t think the Bible uses that expression, and second because it seemed to have a slightly different connotation – but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what that connotation was… any thoughts?

  4. Whoops! Looks like you’ve used “it’s” as a possessive in the first paragraph. Be careful abimout throwing stones!

  5. Good catch, Ellen. The phrase “unity with Christ” should make you a little uncomfortable. It has sort of a “Cloud of Unkowing,” medieval extreme mystical ring about it, doesn’t it? You know, the swallowing up of the human personality into the divine being, that sort of thing. It also seems to skirt right on the edge of obliterating the Creator-creature distinction. It’s hard to imagine anything worse than that.

  6. Just think about the ecumenical scene (or perhaps you’d rather not!) and you’ll SEE the difference between unity and union, even if one side intends the difference to be only temporary.

    • And are you going to launch a grammar guerilla on people using “masterful” when they mean “masterly”? e.g., if I could force you to do it I’d be masterful about it, but if I have to PERSUADE you I’m going to have to be really masterly.

  7. I never realised I was using a word that isn’t! The situation I would like to use the word in is:

    If you are in agreeance with me, I will make these changes.

    What do you recommend instead?


  8. I’m glad to read that you are efforting to improve our use of the language. No doubt it takes a great deal of try.

    “Efforting.” ~cringe~

  9. I’m pushing the interpretation that agreeance is to agreement as truthiness is to truth: It feels like we agree, so let’s pretend we do.

  10. I have always used both; if we are in agreeance, let us sign the agreement. One shows that we feel we agree and one represents the ratification that agreement. I’ve not used it often.

Comments are closed.