Etymology Usage

Was Monica enamored with you-know-who?

Q: I’ve always heard “enamored of,” but lately I’m hearing “enamored with,” and it sounds wrong to me. Which is correct? And what might it be about the word “enamored” that makes one choice more correct than the other?

A: The usual phrase is “enamored of,” but lots of people use “enamored with,” and both are accepted by standard American dictionaries.

We googled “enamored” and each preposition. The results: “enamored of,” 2 million hits; “enamored with,” 825,000.

Here are a couple of examples from among those hits:

“I really love Rudy. He is totally enamored of me.” (Ginny, the Blanch Baker character, in the 1984 film Sixteen Candles.)

“I was enamored with him. And I was excited. And I was enjoying it.” (Monica Lewinsky on Bill Clinton, from a March 3, 1999, interview with Barbara Walters.)

“Enamored” (the British spelling is “enamoured”) was borrowed into English in the early 1300s from the Old French verb enamourer, which came from the noun amour (love).

The verb “enamor,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means “to inspire or inflame with love.”

The adjective “enamored,” the OED says, means “full of the passion of love” or simply “in love.” In a weaker sense, “enamored” can mean charmed or fascinated.

“To be enamored,” the dictionary adds, is “to be in love.” And in this sense, “enamored” isn’t the adjective but a passive form of the verb.

This passive form, the OED says, has historically been used with the prepositions “of,” “on,” “upon,” and “with.”

But constructions using “on” and “upon” are now obsolete. Today, the OED says, we use either “enamored of” or, less commonly, “enamored with.”

The dictionary’s first recorded usage is an example of “enamored on,” from 1303.

Both “on” and “upon” were commonly used for centuries, as in this line that John Palsgrave wrote in 1530: “She hath as many craftes to enamour a foole upon her as any queene in this towne.”

But today, the verb is generally used in the passive voice—as in “I am enamored” rather than “I enamor.”

And the preposition of choice is “of,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage.

In fact, the OED says “with” is obsolete in the weaker sense, in which “enamor” means “to charm, delight, fascinate.”

Dickens used “enamored of” in this way in a letter written in 1866: “I am not so much enamoured of the first and third subjects.”

Why is “enamored of” now on top and “enamored with” No. 2?

We can’t explain it. Perhaps for many to be “enamored” is to be consumed by the love OF someone.

Check out our books about the English language