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From Middle English surete, attested since the early 1300s in the sense "guarantee, promise, pledge, assurance", from Anglo-Norman seurté/Old French seurté with the same meaning (whence modern French sûreté), from Latin sēcūritās. Equivalent to sure +‎ -ty. The senses "security, safety, stability" and "certainy" are attested since the late 1300s. "One who undertakes to pay if another does not" is from the early 1400s. Doublet of security.



surety (countable and uncountable, plural sureties)

  1. Certainty.
  2. That which makes sure; that which confirms; ground of confidence or security.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book 5”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker [] [a]nd by Robert Boulter [] [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, OCLC 230729554:
      [We] our happy state / Hold, as you yours, while our obedience holds; / On other surety none.
  3. (law) A promise to pay a sum of money in the event that another person fails to fulfill an obligation.
  4. (law) One who undertakes to pay money or perform other acts in the event that his principal fails therein.
  5. A substitute; a hostage.
    • (Can we date this quote by William Cowper and provide title, author's full name, and other details?), "Conversation":
      ...It happen’d on a solemn eventide, / Soon after He that was our surety died, / Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined, / The scene of all those sorrows left behind, / Sought their own village, busied as they went / In musings worthy of the great event: / They spake of Him they loved, of Him whose life, / Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife, / Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts, / A deep memorial graven on their hearts...
  6. Evidence; confirmation; warrant.


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