Forty vs. fourty

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The number 40 is spelled forty. This is true in all main varieties of modern English. Fourty is a surprisingly common misspelling that appears most often in the spelling of compound numbers such as 41 (misspelled fourty-one), 42, and so on—for example:

Fourty-five percent of Australians strongly agreed with the value proposition and two percent strongly disagreed. [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]

Fourty-nine stocks depreciated in price during the week, lower than the 58 of the preceding week. [Vanguard]

In a decade we’ll scream to the heavens asking why we paid fourty dollars for a dozen cupcakes, the same way people question their sanity after a flock of seagulls’ haircut. [Washington Examiner]

Fourty-two percent of voters want no cuts in programs for the poor. A year ago, that number was 51 percent. [NJ.com]

The misspelling is understandable, as the first syllable of the word sounds the same as four and the first syllable in fourteen, and there’s no good reason that forty should be different. It is so merely by convention. And though forty has been standard for a few centuries, fourty appeared much more often several centuries ago, before many of our modern spellings were settled.

Fortieth likewise does not have a u. 

58 thoughts on “Forty vs. fourty”

  1. yeah, it’s a pity(((( for example, in the school of my friend’s son, teacher teaches them spelling the word forty- FOURTY. SHE DOESN’T EVEN CONFESSES IT((( After all, what can we say about our education.((((

    Reply
      • For the record, I am but in 8th grade and I already have 2 invitations to colleges. I am a “Straight – A” student at a private (say what you will about it being “snobby”) school, and I am taking three 11th grade classes. Now, what were you saying about “education nowadays”?

        Reply
    • So… you’re complaining about education and spelling and yet you said “confesses it”? OK then… And also, you might want to use ” ) ” to close a parentheses. ” ( ) ”
      Please, correct your own grammar before you go complaining about someone else’s.

      Reply
  2. The hell with convention. Reasonably, “forty” to me means fort-like, as likened to a military base. If the word “four” is spelt with a “u,” then all subsequent integer names should follow. One person played the world early on in history by pushing the “fort” trend. Now, I’m going to be the one to foil the trend.

    Reply
    • Perhaps at some point there was some consistency to it (maybe before those pesky French Fried Vikings showed up), but you’ll find none prior to ‘sixty’.

      One -> Ten
      Two -> Twenty
      Three -> Thirty
      Four -> Forty
      Five -> Fifty

      Twoty, Threety, Fourty, Fivty not only looks odd, it sounds silly, but good luck in your quest. :-)

      Reply
      • You can’t compare thirty with forty. Thirty obviously changes “three” to “thir”. You have to compare forty to other numbers that keep the native integer PRONUNCIATION (sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety)… So yes, it does make sense for forty to be spelled with a ‘u’.

        Reply
      • Here’s some consistency prior to sixty, in thirty and fifty:

        Third, Thirty
        Fourth, Forty
        Fifth, Fifty

        So, Forth / Forty or Fourth / Fourty ?

        Now forty looks silly, unless one got used to it, of course.

        Reply
    • I’m with you, Anoymous! :D I like fourty… but I buckled and decided to teach my ESL students the standard way…. grrr… how come convention always gets its way??? :P

      Reply
      • Hmmm…. that’s an “anoymous” mistake you just made with “anonymous” or perhaps you just fat-fingered and missed out on the “N” which makes all the difference. It was sounding like a New Joisey speaker for a moment.

        Reply
  3. ” And though forty has been standard for a few centuries, fourty appeared much more often several centuries ago, before many of our modern spellings were settled.”
    This would mean that “fourty” is not so much a misspelling as an anachronism.

    Reply
  4. Since “Fourty” was the correct spelling previously, and it makes more sense than “Forty”, it seems apparent that the present convention (trend) is incorrect. So, I am hereby changing back to “Fourty” and everyone else that writes in English is invited to join me.

    Reply

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