The Origin of the Word “Forthwith” (Explained)

Have you ever wondered about the origin of words? Words have fascinating histories, and one word that stands out is “forthwith.” This unique word has been in use since Middle English and has an interesting backstory that traces back to its Old English roots.

In this article, we’ll delve into the etymology of the word “forthwith” and explore its meaning and usage over time. Whether you’re a language enthusiast or simply curious about the origins of common words, join us on this linguistic journey to discover the fascinating history behind “forthwith.”

What Does “Forthwith” Mean?

The word “forthwith” is an adverb that is used to indicate immediate action or without delay. It is often used in formal or legal contexts to convey a sense of urgency or promptness.

When something is required to be done “forthwith,” it means that it must be done immediately or right away, without any delay or hesitation. It suggests a sense of urgency and emphasizes the need for prompt action.

For example, if a court order states that a party must pay a fine “forthwith,” it means that the payment must be made immediately or without any delay. Similarly, if a supervisor instructs an employee to complete a task “forthwith,” it means that the task should be done right away and without any delay.

The word “forthwith” is a formal and somewhat archaic term that is not commonly used in everyday speech. However, it is still occasionally used in legal documents, formal writing, or in situations where the sense of immediate action is important.

In the next section, we will explore the etymology and historical usage of the word “forthwith” to provide a deeper understanding of its origins and significance in the English language.

Etymology and Historical Usage of “Forthwith”

Origin and Etymology of “Forthwith”

The word “forthwith” is derived from Middle English and Old English origins. It combines the word “forth,” meaning “forward” or “onward,” with the word “with,” indicating immediacy or promptness. The term first appeared in the English language around the 13th century, and its usage has evolved over time to convey a sense of urgency or immediate action.

Historical Usage and Evolution of “Forthwith”

In historical usage, “forthwith” was often employed to signify the necessity for a swift response or action. It was commonly used in legal and formal contexts, such as legal documents or official decrees, to emphasize the immediacy and non-negotiable nature of a directive or command. For example, a court order might require a party to comply “forthwith,” indicating that immediate action is expected without delay.

Over time, the usage of “forthwith” has extended beyond legal and formal contexts. It is now commonly employed in everyday language to convey a sense of urgency or immediacy in various situations. For instance, someone might say, “I need this report completed forthwith,” to emphasize the need for prompt completion.

The word “forthwith” has also found its way into literature and speeches, where it is used to amplify the urgency or directive of a character or speaker. Authors and orators often utilize the term to create a sense of immediacy in their narratives or arguments, thereby engaging and captivating their audience.

The usage of “forthwith” continues to evolve as the English language adapts to modern communication styles and contexts. However, its fundamental meaning of promptness and immediacy remains intact, making it a powerful word for conveying a sense of urgency and immediacy in various situations.

Significance of “Forthwith” in the English Language

“Forthwith” is a word that holds significant importance in the English language. It is an adverb that means immediately or without delay. The word is often used to convey a sense of urgency or prompt action, emphasizing the need for swift and decisive action in a given situation.

One of the key reasons for the significance of “forthwith” in the English language is its ability to succinctly express the need for immediate action. Whether it is used in formal writing, legal documents, or everyday speech, “forthwith” conveys a sense of urgency that captures the attention of the listener or reader.

The usage of “forthwith” can also add a certain level of authority or formality to a statement. It implies a command or directive that must be followed promptly, further highlighting the importance of taking action without delay.

Moreover, “forthwith” can also be used to provide clarity and precision in instructions or requests. By specifying the need for immediate action, it eliminates any ambiguity or room for interpretation, ensuring that the message is received and acted upon with the necessary urgency.

In literature, the use of “forthwith” can enhance the dramatic effect and create a sense of tension or anticipation. It adds weight to a character’s command, making their intentions clear and heightening the tension in the narrative.

Overall, the significance of “forthwith” in the English language lies in its ability to convey urgency, authority, and clarity in a concise manner. Its usage adds impact to statements, instructions, or requests, making it an important word in both formal and informal contexts.

Examples of “Forthwith” in Literature and Speech

1. Literature

In literature, the word “forthwith” is often used to denote a sense of urgency or immediacy. Here are a few examples of its usage in various literary works:

  • “With that, the knight unsheathed his sword and forthwith attacked the dragon, determined to vanquish the beast once and for all.” – In this sentence, “forthwith” indicates that the knight took immediate action and attacked the dragon without hesitation.
  • “Upon receiving the news of his father’s illness, the young prince set out on a journey back to the kingdom forthwith.” – Here, “forthwith” expresses the urgency with which the prince embarked on his journey upon hearing about his father’s illness.

2. Speech

In speeches, “forthwith” is often used to emphasize the promptness or immediacy of an action or decision. Here are a couple of examples:

  • “In light of the recent events, we must forthwith take measures to ensure the safety and security of our citizens.” – This statement emphasizes the need for immediate action to address the current situation and ensure the well-being of the population.
  • “I hereby declare the commencement of the project forthwith, as we cannot afford any delays in its implementation.” – Here, “forthwith” underscores the importance of starting the project without any further delay to meet the desired timelines.

These examples demonstrate how “forthwith” is used in both literature and speech to convey a sense of urgency, immediacy, and prompt action.


The word “forthwith” has a rich history and has been used in the English language for centuries. It means to do something immediately or without delay. The etymology of “forthwith” traces back to Old English and has been used in various forms of literature and speech throughout history.

Today, “forthwith” continues to be an important word in the English language, conveying a sense of urgency and promptness. Whether used in legal documents, formal writing, or everyday conversation, “forthwith” serves as a reminder to take action promptly and efficiently. So, let us embrace the power of “forthwith” as we navigate through the demands of our lives and strive for timely accomplishments.

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