• To take up or stand behind an idea; commit to a belief

  • (Archaic) To form a marital union


When people choose to embrace a certain belief or champion a cause or support an organization, they do so because they believe that they are doing the most good for their lives or those they care about. A person may choose to buy fewer plastic products in an effort to lessen her adverse impact on the environment, whereas her neighbor might focus on amassing wealth and gadgets that increase his quality of life. Many people adopt, or espouse, the political system that aligns most closely with their values and convictions. However, we find that our way of life is always changing as we grow and mature, so we take up new theories and reject old ones that don’t quite seem to work anymore. Together, the things we espouse make up who we are - our interests, hobbies, likes, and dislikes - so it’s important to weigh all of the options before settling on one!

To espouse means to accept or affiliate oneself with something. We support the people and things that are important to us for selfish, altruistic, or utilitarian reasons. For example, a child might choose to follow his parents’ advice to study after seeing the praise his sister got after faring well on her latest test. Children are often said to espouse the opinions of their caretakers, learning to value the same ideas as their family from a very young age. Everyday, we consciously or unconsciously learn new information about the world and form ideas based on our findings, espousing our own newly synthesized beliefs about love, education, nutrition, women’s rights, and countless other topics for which there are many sides. Pulling from our own experience and the wisdom of others, we discover the attitudes and principles that we feel resonate with what we understand. Many times, the ideals we take on or the beliefs we follow are so important to us that we can’t help but throwing our support behind these causes, encouraging our friends and organizing our activities to align with our convictions. Although our lives may not perfectly reflect our truest feelings, deep down we filter everything through the worldview that we’ve created, the view of the world that we have accepted or espoused. Promoting our ideals and encouraging others to follow the path we’ve chosen are the most convincing ways to espouse something.

In its more archaic usage, espouse means to get married or give in marriage, hence the word spouse that is found at the core of word. A man would espouse, or marry a woman, embracing her beliefs and family just as she would adopt a new way of life to include her husband. The father of the bride could also espouse his daughter to the man that would become her husband, adhering to the more traditional ideas of marriage. In this union, two different people would support and accept one another’s quirks, shortcomings, tendencies, and values, as they became one family with the same goals. Though we may not espouse our significant others today, we surely go through the similar process of espousing their beliefs and changing the lives we once knew to fit the other person into our home and heart.

Example: After many years of travelling to impoverished countries, the politician eventually espoused the fundamental ideas of socialism as the best way to mend society’s ills.

Example: The doctor insisted that his patient espouse a new exercise regime to improve his health.

Example: The young girl would have to wait until her 18th birthday to espouse the eligible Lord Dawson.


English has always loved espousing words from Latin, and this word is no exception! Originally from the Latin sponsare, meaning “to promise” or “to give (something)” in a ceremony or ritual, espouse was used to signify offerings of a sacrificial kind. Later, in the Old French version of the word, it came to signify more specifically “to marry,” to celebrate the act in which two people pledge, or give, themselves to one another. Slowly, espouse adopted the modern meaning, expanding to mean “to approve” or “support” an idea in the early 17th century.

Derivative Words

Espouses: This third person present form of the verb is used when the subjects he, she, or it take on a cause.

Example: Her father espouses the crazy idea that the house is slowly sinking into the ground.

Espousing: This present progressive form of the word is used when a person or thing is completing the act of supporting something at the current time.

Example: Henry always researches the political candidates before espousing their stance.

Espoused: This past tense form of the verb is used when a subject(s) has already adopted a certain value.

Example: She couldn’t believe that her son had espoused a new wardrobe within one day!

Espousal: This noun refers to the action of advocating a cause or accepting a way of life. Archaic: a nuptial or engagement (having to do with a wedding)

Example: Aunt Nora’s recent espousal of vegetarianism was doubted when she was caught eating a rack of ribs.

In Literature

From Derrick A. Bell’s Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth:

"We live in a system that espouses merit, equality, and a level playing field, but exalts those with wealth, power, and celebrity, however gained."

Here, Bell reminds his readers that although the world we live in encourages, or espouses, hard work and equal opportunities for people to succeed, our society contradicts itself by celebrating any type of success, including that which is seemingly undeserved.


  • Make mental vows to espouse an idea.


Belief, View, Marriage, Support

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of espouse. Did you use espouse in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.