English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Oxford Dictionaries cites a verb as an entry for fête and gives a passive example. How can I use fête in the active voice? For example, can one fête an occasion with pomp and circumstance?

share|improve this question
While most instances of feted Google search finds are in the passive voice, searching for feting yields many results in the active voice. – Peter Shor Aug 7 '12 at 13:14
The passive sounds better to me, but 'they feted the president on his birthday' works. I don't think you can say 'to fete an occasion' that seems wrong; it's the person that gets fete'ed, that gets the party thrown for them. – Mitch Aug 7 '12 at 15:58
If I use fête in English prose, should I write it in italics? – zundarz Aug 9 '12 at 15:00
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The word is fête, not fete, and it is a transitive verb with many “active” citations in the OED:

fête /feɪt/, v.
Etymology: ad. Fr. fêter, f. fête: see prec.

trans. To entertain (a person) at a fête; to feast; also, to give a fête in honour of, commemorate (some event, etc.) by a fête.

  • 1819 Edin. Rev. XXXII. 221 ― He was in general too fond of flattering and ‘feteing’ his master.
  • A. 1845 Barham Ingol. Leg., Hermann, ― The murder thus out, Hermann’s fêted and thanked.
  • 1849 Thackeray Pendennis lxvi, ― The··two footmen··intoxicated the page at a wine-shop, to fête Laura’s recovery.
  • 1879 Huxley Hume 36 ― Great nobles fêted him.
  • 1892 Nation (N.Y.) 29 Sept. 239/2 ― The Government··judging··that the anniversary of the invasion of the Tuileries by the people··ought not to be fêted.

Hence ˈfêted ppl. a.

  • 1828 Disraeli Voy. Capt. Popanilla xiii. 158 ― A habit quite refreshing to fêted characters.
  • 1852 Mrs. Smythies Bride Elect xxxiii, ― Fair and fêted guest as she was!

Note also that it is a person whom one fêtes, not an occasion.


Here are some festive quotations from the Economist:

  • ... in this heinous crime spending their ill gotten gains in whichever country that fetes them, should appall anyone who has even a monochrome ...
  • And Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's prime minister, who feted Mr Khin Nyunt as a man the world could do business with, now has egg on his ...
  • Feted on his return to his troubled old firm, John Mack must justify the hype ...
  • It has praised Hong Kong for its super-strict currency board, and feted Singapore for its flexible managed float.
  • Mr Khumalo, who spent 12 years incarcerated on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, was fêted when his consortium bid 54.5 rand a ...
  • Feted early in the year, when his firm was buying the Jim Henson Company, creator of the Muppets, and half of Formula One, Mr Haffa is now ...
  • "Those pundits who "got Iraq right" or "predicted the tech bubble collapse" are feted with speaking engagements and special television ...
  • First they feted the series of events that led to the formation of the first non- communist government in September 1989, then bemoaned the Nazi ...
  • Will they still fête him when he next visits Zambia?
  • ... their ill gotten gains in whichever country that fêtes them, should appall anyone who has even a monochrome of respect for human rights.
  • et despite an imperial style at odds with corporate-governance fashion, Wall Street fêtes Mr Raymond as, to cite Morgan Stanley, “one of the ...
  • Now would seem a good time for finance to fête its own flops.
  • Feted on his return to his troubled old firm, John Mack must justify the hype.
  • He was fêted, in ZANU circles, for his hilarious puns linking Tony Blair with a local make of toilet.
  • On March 21st, the once-fêted Mr Bon announced annual results that capped a miserable decline: a loss of euro8.3 billion
  • In 2001, Iran's president, Muhammad Khatami, was fêted in Moscow.
  • Metallurgist turned nuclear entrepreneur, Mr Khan, once feted in the Islamic world as the “father of Pakistan's bomb”, is now confined to one of ...
  • It is regularly feted as a flourishing platform for virtual commerce, yet a large portion of its economic activity relates to sex.
  • Like South Korea, China has feted its scientific stars, not just for their supposed laboratory achievements but also for the lustre they gave ...
  • que la fête continue for the poors serfs.
  • The man fêted last year as the Liberator of Warsaw, Berlin and Prague has already shown enough of a brutal streak in Lithuania to be dubbed ...
  • China’s rulers had no choice but to fête Kim Jong Il and his entourage as, earlier this month, he stepped off a lavish train in Beijing to plead for ...
  • Though the KMT lost power in Taiwan in 2000 and Mr Lien himself is likely soon to give up his party job, Chinese leaders feted him like a ...
  • That journalists who once fêted Mr Blair have now turned on him says more about how he has squandered his once considerable authority and ...
  • And only last month, as part of Libya's post-Lockerbie rehabilitation, Britain's Arabists assembled to fete the foppish young man at Chatham ...
  • The author also did not mention that one of the soldiers who raised the flag on Iwo Jima was an American Indian who was fêted at first, came ...
  • Feted rather than shunned, he was dubbed “father of development” by his fan club, and even many foreigners agreed: development banks ...
  • The House should not be fêting Sinn Fein leaders ...
  • This is why he is feted wherever he goes, including in South Africa, with its thriving economy that is run on sound principles and not on the ...
  • The memo outlines what House Democrats have dubbed the “Campaign for a New Majority,” which debuted Tuesday night with a fundraiser fêting Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) that raised roughly $2 million for the DCCC.
  • It is understandable, given their country's history, that the Poles are enjoying punching above their weight and being fêted by President George ...
  • There is a whiff of that from critics who derided Mr Grass in 1995 and fete him now.
  • His flight to India was humiliating for China: even a young monk it had feted and nurtured to help bolster its rule in Tibet rejected it in the most ...
  • Fêting Hitler's birthday is one of their pastimes; if your skin is the wrong colour, this place could be perilous.
  • Unlike most towns, Cognac is literally en fête during its festival.
  • Switzerland's economy is stagnating, unemployment is rising, its airline still ails, Martin Ebner, a fêted financier, has stumbled, and many Swiss ...
  • This is courtesy Dr Okonjo-Iweala that the Economist so feted.
  • ... many of the Tea Partiers seem to espouse but was appalled to see the convention goers fêting the likes of Sarah Palin and Tom Tancredo.
  • Fêting the Chinese president with the full honours accorded to America's most welcome visitors will help.
  • By fêting the novelist, Mr Castro gained an internationally acclaimed ambassador at large.
  • When he launched the British presidency six months ago with a fête at Waterloo Station, the prime minister said he saw the presidency as a test ...
  • He became a world figure in literature, much admired in Germany and fêted in Scandinavia.
  • And the fêting of prominent technology projects in emerging economies is sometimes premature.
  • Still, fêting Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, at the White House St Patrick's Day party was unhelpful to both Tony ...
  • ... he has aligned himself with Ahmed of Qatar and Rashed of Dubai and it is noticeable that the Iranians have taken trouble to fête him on his ...
share|improve this answer
Your 1892 citation is in the passive voice. – Peter Shor Aug 7 '12 at 13:18
@PeterShor I gave the full citation set to illustrate the balance of active to passive. – tchrist Aug 7 '12 at 13:21
I see. It wasn't clear from your text. – Peter Shor Aug 7 '12 at 13:22
Just for completeness, the 1845 citation is also passive. – Gareth Rees Aug 7 '12 at 13:23
In the 1849 and 1892 citations events, not persons, are fêted. – StoneyB Aug 7 '12 at 14:28

Fete as a transitive verb means: (Chambers)

To entertain at a feast

To honour with festivities

So you can't fete occasions, but you can certainly fete people.

She feted her guests at the party.

We have to fete our soldiers.

share|improve this answer
If I wanted to illustrate, I could say ...'fete' our soldiers with accolades and banquets? Or does doing so make it redundant or reduce the impact of fete? – zundarz Aug 7 '12 at 13:41
O yes, you could definitely say that. It won't reduce the impact. – Bravo Aug 7 '12 at 13:44
tchrist's answer provides a definition and citations in which occasions are fêted – StoneyB Aug 7 '12 at 14:32
@StoneyB: It is current usage anyway. There is only so much an 1892 OED sentence can stand for. – Bravo Aug 7 '12 at 15:16
@Shyam Well, every time I remember encountering fête as a noun (mostly in murder mysteries set in English villages) it denoted a event of some sort raising money for a charity or observing some occasion in the ecclesiastical calendar; and as a highly proficient user of the language I'm entitled to overlook the silence of contemporaries, appeal to precedent,and fête anything I damn well please! – StoneyB Aug 7 '12 at 22:45

"Also note that you don't fête an occasion - if you must use it as a verb, you fête a person."

This is not true in the original French version, where you can fête your birthday, etc... Note that the circumflex denotes the absence of a letter that was elided in speech in French, in this and many other cases an 's', so 'fête' is not that far from 'feast'.

share|improve this answer
The fact remains there are only 10 relevant instances of "fete the occasion" in Google Books, as opposed to tens of thousands for "celebrate the occasion". – FumbleFingers Aug 7 '12 at 22:28

My advice is to stick with the passive voice. As this NGram shows, that's what most people do...

enter image description here

And here are just half-a-dozen instances of "I feted him" in the entire corpus of Google Books. You can get away with passive voice, or non-specific subject (they, the people, etc.), but in general "to fete" isn't often used as an "active" verb. Semantically, the "real" subject is actually the person being feted, not the people delivering that honour.

Also note that you don't fete an occasion - if you must use it as a verb, you fete a person.

share|improve this answer
That is a clear misuse of Ngrams: those are not comparable things. Who is to say that he was fêted by them? There may be others. And if you look for just fêted him, then you have problems in the other side. This makes no sense. It is misleading. – tchrist Aug 7 '12 at 13:24
I agree with tchrist. If you look at the Ngram Viewer for he was feted,feted him you'll see that there is only a 2:1 advantage for the passive. (Of course this comparison has its own problems, as tchrist points out.) – Gareth Rees Aug 7 '12 at 13:28
Noted, KitFox. @Paola: No offense, but I've reversed your edit because I accept fete as an English word. I consider fête, café, etc. to be French words, which I've no desire to promulgate on ELU. – FumbleFingers Aug 8 '12 at 12:11
@FumbleFingers. Nor would I, as much as I never add me to program or double the 'l' in traveled. As for spagetti, I was defending my right as an Italian to the right spelling of the word. – Paola Aug 8 '12 at 13:17
@Paola: Anyway, I'm content you understand why I actually wanted to use the non-accented version (as opposed to "couldn't be bothered to construct the character"). I don't know why a couple of people have downvoted the answer. Maybe they think I should have the accent - but it's my answer, so I'll say what I like. – FumbleFingers Aug 8 '12 at 15:00

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.