Fourty vs. Forty: The Correct Spelling Made Clear

How should you spell the number 40? It seems obvious because the number four is spelled with a “u,” so therefore it’s spelled fourty right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. The correct spelling is forty. Discover why this is the case and how the spelling forty came to be.

Speed limit sign by the road Fourty vs Forty Speed limit sign by the road Fourty vs Forty
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Is There a U or Not? That Is the Question

There is understandable confusion about the inconsistency between the spelling of the numbers that contain the number four. For example:

  • four (4)

  • fourteen (14)

  • forty (40)

But why is the “u” standard for the spelling of four and fourteen but not forty? The answer is that the spelling fourty with a “u” used to be standard practice but fell out of favor.

The Origin of Forty

The word forty can be traced back to an Old English compound word feowertig that combines feower (four) and tig (group of ten). The spelling of forty without a “u” has been popular since at least the 16th century. Even the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, spelled it without a “u.”

The spelling of many words has changed over time. English is not fixed but always evolving. Although the spelling of forty is and has been fixed for centuries, the variant spelling fourty makes its way into articles and literature from time to time. However, this use of fourty does not make it correct. Forty is always the correct spelling.

How to Write 40

Forty is used in a variety of ways to indicate the number 40 or forty-something. It can be expressed in written or numerical form.

  • The restaurant could fit about forty people.

  • The speed limit was forty miles per hour.

  • I am forty-one years old.

When to Write Forty vs. 40

It is notable that numbers above 10 are typically written in numerical form in AP style, but it is still important to know the correct spelling of forty. Some writing style guides recommend writing forty, and there are always exceptions to rules. Familiarize yourself with different standards for when to spell out numbers.

How to Remember the Correct Spelling

While it is difficult to remember the spelling of forty and other such words, the best solution is to simply study and memorize the correct spelling. This includes other commonly misspelled words with only one correct spelling like lense and lens.

There are also words where there is one agreed-upon correct spelling, but an alternative spelling is correct and widely used such as thru and through. Whenever you come upon a word you are not sure about, use your judgment and consult your trusted dictionary for the correct spelling and alternate spellings.