- a cardinal number, ten times four.
- a symbol for this number, as 40 or XL or XXXX.
- a set of this many persons or things.
- forties, the numbers, years, degrees, or the like, from 40 through 49, as in referring to numbered streets, indicating the years of a lifetime or of a century, or degrees of temperature: His office is in the West Forties. Her parents are in their forties. The temperature will be in the forties.
- amounting to 40 in number.
Origin of forty
Examples from the Web for forty
Forty minutes later he says, ‘I think she may have chest injuries now.’Harry’s Daddy, and Diana’s ‘Murder’: Royal Rumors In a New Play
January 4, 2015
I was already over forty, had hardly a nickel in my pocket and this was the biggest break in my life.The Story Behind Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance Smile
January 3, 2015
Almost forty years later, it seems unlikely this will ever be the case.Juiciest ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Rumors (and Some Debunked Ones)
January 3, 2015
We were on it for forty minutes of the film, a considerable part of our schedule.Alfred Hitchcock’s Fade to Black: The Great Director’s Final Days
December 13, 2014
It made sense with so many suspects at hand, less so with the tower entrance separated from them by a forty foot wall.A Million Ways to Die in Prison
December 8, 2014
Found a rock hole with about forty gallons of water in it close to camp.Explorations in Australia
He would not have been embarrassed if they had been the Forty Thieves.Malbone
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
It was a short distance to the trees—twenty-five to forty yards, perhaps.Way of the Lawless
The usual working force of the House of Lords is from thirty to forty members.The Grand Old Man
Richard B. Cook
Several of these were killed, and their captain and forty men taken.A Sketch of the Life of Brig. Gen. Francis Marion
William Dobein James
- the cardinal number that is the product of ten and fourSee also number (def. 1)
- a numeral, 40, XL, etc, representing this number
- something representing, represented by, or consisting of 40 units
- amounting to fortyforty thieves
- (as pronoun)there were forty in the herd
Word Origin and History for forty
Old English feowertig, from feower "four" (see four) + tig "group of ten" (see -ty (1)). Cf. Old Saxon fiwartig, Old Frisian fiuwertich, Dutch veertig, Old High German fiorzug, German vierzig, Old Norse fjorir tigir, Gothic fidwor tigjus.
[T]he number 40 must have been used very frequently by Mesha's scribe as a round number. It is probably often used in that way in the Bible where it is remarkably frequent, esp. in reference to periods of days or years. ... How it came to be so used is not quite certain, but it may have originated, partly at any rate, in the idea that 40 years constituted a generation or the period at the end of which a man attains maturity, an idea common, it would seem, to the Greeks, the Israelites, and the Arabs. ["The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia," James Orr, ed., Chicago, 1915]
Forty winks "short sleep" is attested from 1821, In early use associated with, and perhaps coined by, eccentric English lifestyle reformer William Kitchiner M.D. (1775-1827).