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Forty

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A superstitious number, arising from the Scripture use. Thus Moses was forty days in the mount; Elijah was forty days fed by ravens; the rain of the flood fell forty days, and another forty days expired before Noah opened the window of the ark; forty days was the period of embalming; Nineveh had forty days to repent; our Lord fasted forty days; He was seen forty days after His resurrection; etc.

St. Swithin betokens forty daysʹ rain or dry weather; a quarantine extends to forty days; forty days, in the Old English law, was the limit for the payment of the fine for manslaughter; the privilege of sanctuary was for forty days; the widow was allowed to remain in her husband’s house for forty days after his decease; a knight enjoined forty daysʹ service of his tenant; a stranger, at the expiration of forty days was compelled to be enrolled in some tithing; members of Parliament were protected from arrest forty days after the prorogation of the House, and forty days before the House was convened; a new-made burgess had to forfeit forty pence unless he built a house within forty days; etc., etc.

The ancient physicians ascribe many strange changes to the period of forty: the alchemists looked on forty days as the charmed period when the philosopher’s stone and elixir of life were to appear.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Forks
Forked Cap (A)
Forlorn Hope
Forlot or Firlot
Forma Pauperis (Latin, Under plea of poverty)
Fortiter in Re (Latin)
Fortunate Islands
Fortunatus
Fortune
Fortunio
Forty
Forty Stripes save One
Forty Thieves
Forty Winks
Forty-five
Forwards (Marshal)
Foscari (Francis)
Foss (Corporal)
Foss-way
Fossa et Furca [pit and gallows]
Fossils

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Forty Winks
Quarantine