What Does RSVP Stand For?

These days, text messages and social media event notifications have largely replaced the paper invitations of yore. For formal events, though, like weddings, old-school invitations are still the way to go. Part of that paper-in-envelope approach is to "RSVP," which usually means something like checking a little "We will attend" box on a slip that's included with the card, and returning it to the host so they know what size crowd to expect at their function.

According to Slate, RSVPing dates back to around the 1840s, and likely much earlier than that. By the early 20th century the practice nearly fell by the wayside, with manners mavens claiming that reasonable people did not need to be reminded to let a host know they would be attending. They would simply inform them as a matter of principle. This did not kill the RSVP, however, and arguably, using RSVP has only grown more popular over the past century, even becoming a verb. RSVPing is so common these days that it's used on e-calendars, in online event invitations, and even in our emails. But what does RSVP stand for?

Répondez s'il vous plaît

Some fail to realize that RSVP is an acronym, though that acronym doesn't actually stand for anything in English. What RSVP really stands for is répondez s'il vous plaît in French, translating to something like "please respond." In other words, you've received something in the mail formally inviting you to an event, and in return, the host requests that you respond, or RSVP, to let them know if you will be attending, per Reader's Digest.

Etiquette surrounding exactly how to properly to RSVP has changed over the years. For hosts, requesting an RSVP is useful when planning meals, or just to determine how many chairs to set up. For guests uncertain whether or not they can attend, letting the host know that the invitation was received and that you'll be in touch shortly is still considered best practice, according to Refinery 29. What's for certain, though, is that as long as people gather for functions and events, it's likely we will still use RSVP far into the future.