Intermediate+ Word of the Day: fork

fork (noun, verb) /fɔrk/ LISTEN

A fork is an agricultural or gardening tool with a long handle and two or more sharp prongs, used for lifting, carrying, throwing, or digging. From this, we also get the name for the implement with two or more prongs that we use for holding food while it is being cut and carrying it to our mouths (usually, the one you eat with will have three or four prongs and one with two prongs is likely to have a longer handle and be used to hold meat while it is being carved). A fork is also the point at which something like a river or a road divides into two or more branches, as well as any one of these branches. As a verb, to fork means ‘to pierce or lift something with a fork’ and ‘to divide into branches.’

Example sentences

  • The farmhand thrust his fork into the hay bale, lifted it, and threw it onto the cart.
  • John is turning the soil in his vegetable patch with a fork.
  • Sabina twisted the noodles around her fork.
  • The boat arrived at a fork in the river and we weren't sure which way we should go.
  • The driver took the left-hand fork, which led only to the isolated cottage.
  • I asked Pete a question, but he was too busy forking food into his mouth to reply.
  • The road forks just outside the village.

Words often used with fork

fork out: to pay for something. Example: “My car broke down last week, so I had to fork out for the repairs.”

pitchfork: a long-handled fork with two very sharp prongs, used for lifting and throwing (or pitching) hay, straw, etc.

In pop culture

The Pitchfork Music Festival is an annual event that takes place in Chicago in the summer. Here is a clip of band Whitney performing their song “Golden Days” at last year’s festival:

Additional information

Another word for the prongs on forks is tines.

Did you know?

If you say someone is speaking with a forked tongue, it means that person is lying. This expression is found in literature, including Milton’s Paradise Lost, and is probably a reference to the serpent (another word for snake) who tricked Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, as snakes have forked tongues.

Origin

Fork dates back to before the year 1000. The Old English forca or force (pronounced for-ke), meaning ‘pitchfork, forked instrument or forked weapon,’ probably came into English through a Germanic language, but can be traced back to the Latin furca, which could be ‘a two pronged fork or a pitchfork’ as well as ‘a fork used in cooking.’ It’s related to the Old Frisian forke, the Dutch vork, the Old Norse forkr and the Danish fork, all with the same meaning. Its origin before that is unknown. It evolved into forke in Middle English before dropping the final e in Modern English. Forks were not used to eat in England before the 15th century, and then only by nobles. They became popular much later, in the early 17th century. The word fork was first used to describe them around 1430 (in an inventory list), probably influenced by the Old French forche, which had the same origin. It has been used to describe a bifurcation in a river since the mid-18th century, and extended to roads in the early 19th century. The verb comes from the noun. Meaning ‘to divide in branches or go separate ways,’ it dates back to the early 14th century. The sense ‘to raise or move with a fork’ appeared in the early 19th century. The colloquial phrases fork over and fork out both date back to the 1830s.

Fork was suggested by Helen, from Chicago.

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