Word Confusion: Forte versus Forty

Posted February 13, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I rarely see forte used in text. I’m much more likely to read it in sheet music. So it was with a great deal of surprise when someone used forty to talk about the loudness of the music. I’m sorry. But that just hit the wrong note for me. Either music or words, perhaps both, were not this writer’s forte.

Sure, you could argue that perhaps the forty was the sound level. Uh-huh. I can only imagine the drivers in those speakers. Ooh, mama…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Forte Forty
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Anton Hynkel Plays Piano” for The Great Dictator Charles Chaplin trailer, Copy –Groth-Pfeifer (talk) 15:11, 14 May 2011, which is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“74501__timbre__20335-djgriffin-blipsarp-ringtone-mix-1-wc5000.wav” is courtesy of Timbre, via FreeSound

Part of Grammar:
Adverb 1; Adjective 1; Noun 1, 2, 3 Adjective; Cardinal Number;
Plural: forties
Adverb & Adjective:
[Music] Especially as a direction/instruction, loud or loudly

A passage performed or marked to be performed loudly 1

A thing at which someone excels 2

[Fencing] The stronger part of a sword blade, from the hilt to the middle 3

Amounting to 40 in number

Cardinal Number and Noun:
The number equivalent to the product of four times ten or ten less than fifty


[Roman numeral] xl or XL

  • [Forties] The numbers from forty to forty-nine, especially the years of a century or of a person’s life
  • Forty years old
  • Forty miles an hour
Adverb & Adjective:
It must be played forte.

Small talk was not his forte.

The forte is the strong part of the blade, and the opposite of the foible which is the weakest part.

I’d say there are about 40.

Ali Baba and his forty thieves were a menace.

Cardinal Number and Noun:
Troy was only forty miles away.

Forty were arrested.

There were about thirty or forty of them.

Terry was in his early forties.

A tall woman of about forty.

They were doing about forty.

Jenny turned 40 yesterday.

Noun: fortepiano
History of the Word:
1 Italian, literally strong, loud, from the Latin fortis

2 Mid-17th century

3 Originally fort from the French fort (masculine), forte (feminine) meaning strong. It’s from the Latin fortis.

Before 950; Middle English fourti from the Old English fēowertig cognate with Old Frisian fiuwertich, Old High German fiorzug, and German vierzig.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Aasizzler3” was photographed by Andrew Alder, 23 June 2004, which is under the GNU Free Documentation license, via Wikimedia Commons.