I have a hard time understanding the difference between aforethought and forethought. Based on this link from wikidiff, the difference is explained this way:

forethought is thought of, or planned, beforehand while aforethought is premeditated; planned ahead of time.

I fail to see any difference between "planned beforehand" and "planned ahead of time". I interpret these two statements as identical.

  • 1
    Small tip: it might be better to use dictionaries to compare words instead of Wikidiff. It's automated. No one analyzes the content. You can compare apple and forethought.
    – Em.
    Jun 21, 2018 at 21:55
  • @Em. Damm. Thank you a lot. I check the Merriam Webster dictionary, and I get Forethought: a thinking or planning out in advance; aforethought: : previously in mind : premeditated. So forethought seems to be more of a plan and aforethought more of an idea?
    – John Mayne
    Jun 21, 2018 at 22:05
  • I don't think I've heard "aforethought" before today. It seems like aforethought is an adjective and forethought is not.
    – Em.
    Jun 21, 2018 at 22:13
  • @Em - I hadn't, either. I was a bit surprised at the ngram, but, looking at the individual usages, it seems to be oft-used in legal proceedings, such as: the government wanted to introduce prior bad acts of the defendant to prove "malice aforethought."
    – J.R.
    Jun 21, 2018 at 22:19

2 Answers 2


aforethought is a an adjective and restricted to a legal phrase "malice aforethought". If a person kills another person it may be a murder or a manslaughter. The difference is whether the person intended to kill or injure or not. This intention to do harm is called "malice aforethought"

Forethought (a noun) is just thinking about something in advance: planning or preparation


Essentially, they are identical.

The Wikidiff website appears to generate a page by using an artificial intelligence algorithm to process a couple dictionary entries. As such, when you enter two synonyms, you may get a "difference" that is more comical than meaningful.

Some examples:

  • the difference between huge and large is that huge is very large while large is of considerable or relatively great size or extent.

  • the difference between infinitesimal and minuscule is that infinitesimal is infinitesimal while minuscule is written in minuscules, lower-case.

  • the difference between taciturn and silent is that taciturn is silent; temperamentally untalkative; disinclined to speak while silent is free from sound or noise; absolutely still; perfectly quiet.

In short, this is not a reliable way to discern the subtle differences between two words; you'd be better off combing through a few good dictionaries and studying the entries individually.

  • I would second EM's proposition that forethought is a noun and aforethought an adjective, little used except to follow malice in legalese. Jun 21, 2018 at 22:26

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