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[fawrt, fohrt or for 1, fawr-tey] /fɔrt, foʊrt or for 1, ˈfɔr teɪ/
a person's strong suit, or most highly developed characteristic, talent, or skill; something that one excels in:
I don't know what her forte is, but it's not music.
the stronger part of a sword blade, between the middle and the hilt (opposed to foible).
Origin of forte1
1640-50; earlier fort < Middle French (see fort); disyllabic pronunciation by association with forte2
Can be confused
fort, forte (see pronunciation note at the current entry)
Pronunciation note
In the sense of a person's strong suit (He draws well, but sculpture is his real forte), the older and historical pronunciation of forte is the one-syllable
[fawrt] /fɔrt/ (Show IPA)
[fohrt] /foʊrt/
pronounced as the English word fort. The word is derived from the French word fort, meaning “strong.” A two-syllable pronunciation
[fawr-tey] /ˈfɔr teɪ/
is increasingly heard, especially from younger educated speakers, perhaps owing to confusion with the musical term forte, pronounced in English as
[fawr-tey] /ˈfɔr teɪ/
and in Italian as
[fawr-te] /ˈfɔr tɛ/ .
Both the one- and two-syllable pronunciations of forte are now considered standard.
Related Quotations
“[George B.] McClellan is an intelligent engineer and officer, but not a commander to lead a great army in the field. To attack or advance with energy and power is not in him; to fight is not his forte.“
—Gideon Welles, from his diary entry for September 3, 1862, The Blue and the Gray: The Story of the Civil War as told by participants, Volumes 1-2 by Henry Steele Commager (1982)
“Who was he kidding? It wasn't his forte. He had no forte. That was his forte.“
—Stanley Elkin, “The Guest“ Criers and Kibitzers, Kibitzers and Criers (1965)
“Elegance, oratory, and women are his forte.“
—Luis Rafael Sánchez, Macho Camacho's Beat transl. by Gregory Rabassa (2001)
“[B]e sure to hold the sword comfortably in front of you with the forte (not the hilt) guarding your head.“
—Richard Lane, Swashbuckling: a step-by-step guide to the art of stage combat and theatrical swordplay (1999)


[fawr-tis] /ˈfɔr tɪs/ Phonetics
pronounced with considerable muscular tension and breath pressure, resulting in a strong fricative or explosive sound. In stressed position (p, t, k, ch, f, th, s, sh) and sometimes (h) are fortis in English as compared with (b, d, g, j, v, th̸, z, and zh), which are lenis.
Compare lenis.
noun, plural fortes
[fawr-teez] /ˈfɔr tiz/ (Show IPA)
a fortis consonant.
1905-10; < Latin: strong, powerful, firm


[fawr-tey; Italian fawr-te] /ˈfɔr teɪ; Italian ˈfɔr tɛ/ Music.
(a direction in a musical score or part) loud; with force (opposed to piano).
(a direction in a musical score or part) loudly.
a passage that is loud and played with force or is marked to be so.
Abbreviation: f.
1715-25; < Italian < Latin fortis strong Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for fortes
Historical Examples
  • These are bungling contrivances: not our fortes but our foibles.

    Cape Cod Henry D. Thoreau
  • Americans were scarce this season, and fortes pourboires few and far between.

    Riviera Towns Herbert Adams Gibbons
  • When they said 'a small comedy-part is still vacant,' I said small comedy-parts are my forte of fortes!

    The Man Who Was Good Leonard Merrick
  • It will be seen that Uncle Abe has other fortes than statesmanship—and that of a physiognoist is one of them.

    Lincolniana Andrew Adderup
  • Multi fortes vixerunt ante Agamemnona; but they have found no bard to record their deeds of prowess in immortal verse.

    Some Heroes of Travel W. H. Davenport Adams
  • All contentions to the contrary notwithstanding, I would say that secret service is not one of the fortes of the Germans.

    The Iron Ration George Abel Schreiner
  • But as it was said of the great unknown who passed away—the fortes ante Agamemnon—“they had no poet, and they died.”

    Memoirs Charles Godfrey Leland
  • The fortes are governed by knee pedals which act by pneumatic pressure.

British Dictionary definitions for fortes


/fɔːt; ˈfɔːteɪ/
something at which a person excels; strong point: cooking is my forte
(fencing) the stronger section of a sword blade, between the hilt and the middle Compare foible
Word Origin
C17: from French fort, from fort (adj) strong, from Latin fortis


adjective, adverb
loud or loudly f
a loud passage in music
Word Origin
C18: from Italian, from Latin fortis strong


(of a consonant) articulated with considerable muscular tension of the speech organs or with a great deal of breath pressure or plosion
noun (pl) -tes (-tiːz)
a consonant, such as English p or f, pronounced with considerable muscular force or breath pressure
Compare lenis
Word Origin
Latin: strong
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for fortes



1640s, from French fort "strong point (of a sword blade)," also "fort," from Middle French fort (see fort). Meaning "strong point of a person" is from 1680s. Final -e- added 18c. in imitation of Italian forte "strong."


music instruction, "loud, loudly," from Italian forte, literally "strong," from Latin fortis "strong" (see fort).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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fortes in Culture
forte [(fawr-tay)]

A musical direction meaning “to be performed loudly”; the opposite of piano.

Note: The common keyboard instrument the pianoforte (“piano” for short) got its name because it could play both soft and loud notes.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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