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:

  • Forcible — For ci*ble, a. [Cf. OF. forcible forcible, forceable that may be forced.] 1. Possessing force; characterized by force, efficiency, or energy; powerful; efficacious; impressive; influential. [1913 Webster] How forcible are right words! Job. vi. 2? …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • forcible — for·ci·ble / fȯr sə bəl/ adj: effected by force or threat of force used against opposition or resistance a forcible felony for·ci·bly adv Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • forcible — (adj.) early 15c., from M.Fr. forcible, from O.Fr. forcier (see FORCE (Cf. force)). Related: Forcibly …   Etymology dictionary

  • forcible — forceful, *powerful, potent, puissant Analogous words: vehement, *intense, violent: energetic, strenuous, *vigorous: *aggressive, militant, assertive, self assertive: coercing or coercive (see corresponding verb at FORCE) …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • forcible — [adj] powerful, aggressive active, armed, assertive, coercive, cogent, compelling, compulsory, drastic, effective, efficient, energetic, forceful, impressive, intense, mighty, militant, persuasive, potent, puissant, strong, telling, valid,… …   New thesaurus

  • forcible — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ done by force. DERIVATIVES forcibly adverb …   English terms dictionary

  • forcible — [fôr′sə bəl] adj. [ME < OFr] 1. done or effected by force; involving the use of force 2. having force; forceful forcibleness n. forcibly adv …   English World dictionary

  • forcible — for•ci•ble [[t]ˈfɔr sə bəl, ˈfoʊr [/t]] adj. 1) done or effected by force: forcible entry; forcible seizure[/ex] 2) having or producing force; powerfully effective 3) convincing, as reasoning: a forcible theory[/ex] • Etymology: 1350–1400; ME… …   From formal English to slang

  • forcible — forcibleness, forcibility, n. forcibly, adv. /fawr seuh beuhl, fohr /, adj. 1. done or effected by force: forcible entry into a house. 2. producing a powerful effect; having force; effective. 3. convincing, as reasoning: a forcible theory. 4.… …   Universalium

  • forcible — for|ci|ble [ˈfo:sıbəl US ˈfo:r ] adj done using physical force ▪ the forcible overthrow of the government ▪ signs of forcible entry into the building …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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