Forte (n)

Over the years, I’ve set out several times to write a context clues worksheet for the noun forte, and then never finished. So when it popped up as Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day a few days back, I resolved to finally complete what should be a fairly mundane task. After all, forte is in fairly common use, isn’t it?

So I’m not sure why I heretofore struggled with writing this context clues worksheet on the noun forte. It means “one’s strong point” for the purposes of this worksheet and it’s the only way I use it in speech. But it has other meanings, including, as a noun, “the part of a sword or foil blade that is between the middle and the hilt and that is the strongest part of the blade.” Also as a noun, in the context of music, it means “a tone or passage played forte : a musical tone or passage played loudly.” So it is subtly polysemous.

I’ve always pronounced it “for-tay.” But there is contention about that. I’ll spare you the details, other than the topic sentence from a lengthy excursus from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, on pronouncing forte: “In forte we have a word derived from French that in its ‘strong point’ sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation.”

Whatever the case, this is a word educated people use in discourse, so our students should learn it for that reason alone.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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