Spouse (pronounced spous, spouz).

Noun: spouse

Middle English, from Old French spous, from Latin sponsus, from past participle of spondre, to pledge.

1.) A man or woman engaged or joined in wedlock; a married person, husband or wife.

2.) The unpaid half of a Foreign Service partnership, e.g. John Q. Nebbish, Foreign Service Officer (FSO), and spouse, Jane Nebbish.

3.) Eligible Family Member. Despite eligibility, many programs are offered to spouses on a space-available basis.

Verb: to spouse, spousing, spoused

1.) To assume that the spouse of an FSO is available to perform tasks associated with Embassy functions on a volunteer basis.

Example: “The Congressman is bringing his wife along, so let’s spouse Jane Nebbish to take her shopping for Oriental carpets on Tuesday.”

2.) To assume that the spouse of an FSO will attend (or host) official functions though she is not, in fact, employed by the U.S. Embassy.

Example: “The Ambassador and Mrs. Ambassador request the presence of Mr. John Nebbish, and spouse Jane Nebbish, to attend a stuffy reception including several lengthy speeches that Mrs. Nebbish will not understand at all, space having been unavailable for her during language training. Painful shoes required.”

3.) To request unpaid labor from the spouse of an FSO with the implicit or explicit effect of having an impact on his career.

Example: “As the world’s richest and most powerful democracy, we nevertheless lack resources to decorate for the official Fourth of July reception. So, we’ll spouse some Embassy wives into doing it by sending a ‘request’ from the Front Office via a memo to their husbands.”

3.) To pay for labor at substantially less than U.S. market rates because the spouse of an FSO will occupy the position.

Example: “The Spouse Employment Committee recently spoused Jane Nebbish for the position of Political Section Secretary at $10 per hour (We would just as soon have hired a local for even less money, but they don’t have the security clearance.)”

5.) To assume that the spouse of an FSO has no financial need for employment, and based on that assumption, ask her to volunteer, or to work at a substantial discount.

Example: “We can save money by spousing Jane Nebbish for this teaching position because her husband will be working for the Embassy, and she must be looking for work just to stay busy during his tour. Therefore, we can consider her to be a local hire, along with the clerical and janitorial staff.”

6.) To assume that the spouse of an FSO, though professionally qualified in one field, will be amenable to working in another totally unrelated or less skilled field.

Example: “Jane Nebbish said something to me at that reception last night about being a freelance journalist, so she must type pretty well. Surely she’d be willing to fill the secretarial slot in the DCM’s office for a while. She gave me her business card; why don’t you ring her up and spouse her?”

7.) To reject an applicant for a position based on the fact that he or she is the spouse of an FSO and will be transferring out of country in less than four years. Does not apply to officers.

Example: “Jane Nebbish is clearly the most qualified applicant for this position, and her desired salary is competitive, but we’ll have to spouse her, as it would make more sense to hire this local contractor who will be here permanently.”

Adjective: Spoused.

To have been the object of spousing.

Example: Ask any Eligible Family Member (:

Definition compiled by Kelly Bembry Midura and her writerly companions.

Kelly Bembry Midura is a Foreign Service spouse and Content Manager of AAFSW.  She blogs at wellthatwasdifferent.com.