What Is Forte? – Meaning & Definition

Photo of author

Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

The English language is highly influenced by many other languages and contains many loanwords and phrases that have stayed true to their original foreign spelling and pronunciation.

Forte is one of those words which derive from the French. Originally used in swordplay, the word has taken on various meanings through the centuries. In this article, we will explore the different definitions of the word forte, its pronunciations and how it is most commonly used in modern English.

What Does Forte Mean?

What Is Forte Meaning Definition

Forte has French origins and offers multiple meanings as a noun and an adverb or adjective in English. It is a loanword that is well-recognized in most languages.

Forte (noun): Something in which one excels.

This is by far the most popular and well-known use of the word in English. It is used to describe someone’s strong point or area of expertise.

For example:

  • Literary analysis was most definitely her forte, and she was chosen to lead her academic team in the poetry and historical literature category.
  • Even though he competed in various events on the high school track team, the 100-meter dash was his forte, and he won it easily.
  • It was obvious from an early age that Michael’s forte was visual arts, and his elementary teachers made sure to foster his love of drawing and creation.

Forte (noun): The strongest part of a sword loaded between the middle and the hilt.

This is the original use of the word but is no longer well-known outside the sport of fencing. When swordplay was commonplace, the term was well used and influenced its use to describe something one excels in.

For example:

  • Part of mastering fencing is knowing the various parts of the sword, especially the use and movement of the forte and foible, or the strongest and weakest lengths of the blade, respectively.

Forte (noun): A musical note or chord played loudly.

The literal note or passage of music to be played loudly is called a forte. It is derived from the Italian use of the word strong.

For example:

  • Watch for the forte when reading the music so you know which notes to place emphasis on.
What Is Forte Meaning Definition 1

Forte (adjective or adverb): To play music loudly.

When describing a note being played loudly or with strong emphasis, one describes it with the word forte. This is derived from the Italian sense of forte, which means strong.

For example:

  • She introduced the score with her own personal interpretation, playing in forte in the most unexpected places; surprisingly enough, her composition was well received.

How Do You Pronounce Forte?

In French, forte is pronounced as a single syllable. Because forte is also a musical direction in Italian, where it is pronounced as \ˈfȯr-ˌtā\, the two-syllable pronunciation for the “strong point” sense has taken hold in English pronunciation.

Origins of the Use of Forte

Forte Ngram
Forte usage trend.

Forte originates from the 17th-century French word fort, meaning a “strong point of a sword blade.” It is derived from the mid-15th-century word fort or fortress, meaning “stronghold, sturdy or difficult.”

The use of fort to mean the strong point of a person or that in which a person excels is from the late 17th century. The addition of the final -e was added in the 18th century after the Italian spelling and pronunciation forte, meaning strong.

Let’s Review

Forte derives from the French word for fortress or stronghold, which quickly was adapted to be synonymous with sturdy, strong or difficult. The word was first applied to the sword to help describe the strong point of the blade, located between the hilt and the middle.

Pronounced as fort in French, it was adapted into Italian, where the final -e was added—influencing the English pronunciation as fore-tay. The word has various meanings but is almost exclusively used as a noun in English to describe something a person excels in. It also is recognizable to anyone familiar with sheet music as the symbol of playing parts of a score loudly and with emphasis.