17

I came across this word in some software code written by someone else. I knew what it meant (in Dutch we call it voormiddag), but I didn't know the word exists.

I've always heard/seen people refer to morning and afternoon, never to forenoon and afternoon. Is it a word people commonly use?

5
  • Forenoon is a very common word used among the Amish and their surrounding communities. – JayTay Jul 24 '14 at 13:29
  • In dutch none uses "voormiddag" by my knowledge. Moreover "voormiddag" means 12-14 generally (source: taaladvies.net/taal/advies/vraag/878/voormiddag_namiddag) while forenoon probably means some period before 12:00. I guess that the meaning is different. – user1043065 May 31 '15 at 6:25
  • @user1043065 I wasn't aware of the difference in meaning between Belgium and the Netherlands, interesting link. – Stijn Jun 1 '15 at 9:35
  • 2
    No. I didn't even know that word existed, and I'm a native speaker who prides myself on vocabulary. – user25267 Dec 5 '15 at 20:28
  • 1
    No it is not common. I've never said the word in my life. However, I will not advise you to not use it. If you use it, maybe you can teach a native speaker a new word and there's nothing wrong with that. – user20792 Dec 6 '15 at 0:37
19

Morning is a common English word, as you know. Forenoon, on the other hand, is so rare that I'm not sure many native speakers of English will even recognize the word.

How rare is it? To find out, I searched the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) for both morning and forenoon. Here are the results I got:

 
  Search term             Number of results
  -------------------------------------------
  morning                 128954
  forenoon                16
 

That makes morning roughly eight thousand times more common than forenoon. It's safe to say you should stick to morning and avoid forenoon entirely.

But wait! Is it possible forenoon is only used in dialects of English other than US English? To find out, I searched the Corpus of Global Web-Based English (GloWbE), which contains samples of English from twenty countries. And in none of those countries was it substantially more common than in the US; the numbers in every country were less than one occurrence per million words. And the few results that I do find are mostly in fiction.

So yes, it is safe to say: avoid forenoon. Use morning instead.

2
  • You robbed my reps. Grrr! Anyway +1 for seeing how much same this answer is with what I was going to post. :-) – Mistu4u Oct 1 '13 at 13:55
  • Yes, you are good at getting search result facts, like on my plural of octopus question. – ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq Jul 25 '14 at 2:43
13

It's not exactly obsolete, but forenoon is at the very least a "dated" usage...

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Any native speakers would understand forenoon, but most people wouldn't use the term themselves, and they'd probably notice and classify it as a "minor mistake" if they heard a non-native speaker using it.

7
  • Actually, I being a non-native speaker heard the word first time. – Mistu4u Oct 1 '13 at 13:58
  • 3
    @Mistu4u: But you being relatively competent in English, I don't suppose you'd have any problem understanding the word if you first came across it used in context (which would most likely be if you were reading text written a century or two ago). – FumbleFingers Oct 1 '13 at 14:03
  • @Mistu4u: I think it also depends on which literature you read. I mostly read fantasy and the word forenoon appears time to time. – MasterPJ Oct 1 '13 at 14:06
  • @MasterPJ, No,no. I absolutely left reading English literature 4 years ago. Now my only resource of using English is speaking with people around here (where I live), posting in SE and chatting here. Might be, that's why I never heard of it. – Mistu4u Oct 1 '13 at 14:09
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    @FumbleFingers i have never heard of "forenoon" too but it really is clear "(be)fore" - "noon" just like "after" - "noon". – Berker Yüceer Oct 4 '13 at 11:37
7

More broadly than the other answers, forenoon is one of the time-of-day terms that has become much less commonly used over the last century or so, possibly as a result of the widespread use of artificial lighting. In earlier times, it was common to see the day divided into much more specific segments, but now only the terms in bold are in common usage for describing the time of day:

  • dawn
  • twilight (morning)
  • sunrise
  • morning
  • forenoon
  • midday
  • afternoon
  • evening
  • sunset
  • twilight (evening)
  • dusk
  • night

As a fan of the Aubrey–Maturin series, set in the early 1800s, I'm quite familiar with the nautical term "forenoon watch", but I can't ever recall having seen "forenoon" used in a modern setting.

1
  • 3
    All of those are still common words, though, except forenoon. And forenoon was, even in its heyday of the mid-1800s, still far less common than morning; even at its peak, morning was roughly 50 times more common (according to a search in COHA). – snailplane Oct 2 '13 at 11:07
6

I grew up on a dairy farm in Dover, PA. My family, as with most folks in the region, are influenced by PA Dutch (not Dutch as in from Holland but Dutch Anglicized Deutsch/German) dialects.

I'm not surprised it doesn't show up in Internet searches as I don't know that I've ever actually written the word but have used it commonly among my family and others from the region in conversation regularly.

3

I am a British, native speaker of English, living in Denmark. I like the word 'forenoon' and sometimes use it, particularly in writing. I do not regard it as archaic, but I may however be influenced in this by Danish, a language I speak every day and fluently. In Danish, we distinguish between 'morgen' (morning) and 'formiddag' (forenoon). We say 'God morgen!' (Good morning!), but only up until about 09.30 or 10.00 hrs. After that, we switch to 'Goddag!' (Good day!).

I have always regarded 'forenoon' as a word much more used and favoured in Scotland than in England, and I admit that it is generally speaking far more used by older people than younger ones. 'Forenoon' has a nice ring to it, I feel. :-)

-1

Forenoon is a common word to represent the timing between 10am to 12 noon,.I dont think morning is an apt word to represent 11 am. If somebody uses morning, it naturally sounds a time between 6 am to 10 am in my understanding .I dont know weather or not the native speakers avoided this word by the influence of sms and all..

1
  • 3
    I think you're going to have to back up your assertion that "forenoon" is common, since I and others here would consider it fairly unusual at best, and quite rare at worst. I'm a fairly literate native speaker, but I didn't even know it meant anything other than exactly the same as "morning". Also, "morning" in AmE is used very nearly as much for 11:55 AM as for 7:30 AM. – Nathan Tuggy May 30 '15 at 6:24

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