forceful, forcible
1. Fowler (1926) identified the difference in meaning as follows: ‘while forcible conveys that force rather than something else is present, forceful conveys that much as opposed to little force is used or shown; compare forcible ejection with a forceful personality.’ He then went on to say that the more important consideration than difference in meaning was the need to use one (forcible) as the natural regular word and reserve the other (forceful) for ‘poetical or other abnormal use’. His conclusion was that otherwise, ‘we shall shortly find ourselves with a pair of exact synonyms either of which could well be spared instead of a pair serving different purposes’. In practice, the two words are kept apart fairly comfortably, and Fowler's prescriptions and predictions were wide of the mark; neither is the ‘ordinary’ word any more than the other. The principal use of forceful is in the meaning ‘vigorous, powerful’, whereas forcible means primarily ‘done by or using force’. Forceful can be used of people as well as actions, whereas forcible is used only of actions.
2. Examples: (forceful)

• It might be easier to…start again from scratch, crystallizing a lifetime's experience into a hundred forceful pages? —Iris Murdoch, 1976

• He was strong and his resources of stamina enabled him to play just as forcefully in the final ten minutes of a game as in the first ten —S. Studd, 1981

• There will probably be one or two forceful characters who will try to dominate the proceedings —Times, 2001

• (forcible) He favoured the forcible sterilization of criminals, diseased and insane persons, and ‘worthless race-types’ —J. R. Baker, 1971

• Section 47 of the National Assistance Act 1948 allows for the forcible removal from their own homes of elderly people who are not mentally ill —O. Stevenson et al., 1990

• She was lightly mugged and forcibly deprived of some expensive clip-on ear-rings —Independent, 2002.

The word that is likely to be used wrongly is forcible or forcibly:

• ☒ Vaughan has spoken forcibly about the confusion caused by split captains —Daily Telegraph, 2007.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Forceful — Force ful, a. Full of or processing force; exerting force; mighty. {Force ful*ly}, adv. [1913 Webster] Against the steed he threw His forceful spear. Dryden. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • forceful — index categorical, cogent, convincing, decisive, dogmatic, drastic, eloquent, forcible, indomitable …   Law dictionary

  • forceful — (adj.) 1570s, from FORCE (Cf. force) + FUL (Cf. ful). Related: Forcefully; forcefulness …   Etymology dictionary

  • forceful — *powerful, potent, forcible, puissant Analogous words: compelling, constraining (see FORCE vb): virile, manful (see MALE): cogent, telling, convincing, compelling (see VALID): *effective, efficient Antonyms: feeble Contrasted words: * …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • forceful — [adj] effective, powerful ball of fire*, bullish*, cogent, coming on strong, commanding, compelling, constraining, convincing, dominant, dynamic, electric, elemental, energetic, forcible, gutsy*, mighty, persuasive, pithy, potent, powerhouse,… …   New thesaurus

  • forceful — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ powerful, assertive, or vigorous. DERIVATIVES forcefully adverb forcefulness noun …   English terms dictionary

  • forceful — [fôrs′fəl] adj. full of force; powerful, vigorous, effective, cogent, etc. forcefully adv. forcefulness n …   English World dictionary

  • forceful — force|ful [ˈfo:sfəl US ˈfo:rs ] adj 1.) a forceful person expresses their opinions very strongly and clearly and people are easily persuaded by them = ↑strong a forceful personality/character/opponent etc ▪ He gained a reputation as a forceful… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • forceful — [[t]fɔ͟ː(r)sfʊl[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED (approval) If you describe someone as forceful, you approve of them because they express their opinions and wishes in a strong, emphatic, and confident way. He was a man of forceful character, with considerable… …   English dictionary

  • forceful —  , forcible, forced  Forcible indicates the use of brute force ( forcible entry ). Forceful suggests a potential for force ( forceful argument, forceful personality ). Forced can be used for forcible (as in forced entry ), but more often is… …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

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