forty

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40 acres and a mule

1. Something given by the government. The phrase refers to a promise made during the Civil War by Union general William T. Sherman that freed slaves would receive 40 acres of land and a mule. However, after the war that land was given back to its original owners. I'm doing just fine on my own—I don't need 40 acres and a mule from Uncle Sam.
2. A promise or assurance that proves to be false. I think he's just tempting us with that offer, and it'll turn out to be 40 acres and a mule.
See also: 40, acre, and, mule

a fool at 40 is a fool forever

proverb Someone who reaches middle age and continues to act foolishly is unlikely to start acting more maturely. A: "He's way too old to be spending his money so frivolously." B: "I know. A fool at 40 is a fool forever."
See also: 40, fool, forever

back forty

Sprawling, uncultivated acreage, as would be found on a farm. I often go to the back forty of my property when I need some quiet time to think.
See also: back, forty

catch forty winks

To sleep for a short time; to take a nap. Dad's upstairs catching forty winks before dinner.
See also: catch, forty, wink

forty minutes of hell

In collegiate basketball, the entire duration (40 minutes) of a game played in a suffocating and aggressive manner against one's opponents. The phrase was reportedly coined by Nolan Richardson while coaching the Arkansas Razorbacks in the mid-1990s. Primarily heard in US, South Africa. OK, everyone, go out there and give them forty minutes of hell—don't even give them a chance to breathe!
See also: forty, hell, minute, of

forty ways from Sunday

Thoroughly or completely; in every possible way; from every conceivable angle. Everyone had their money on the reigning champion, but he was beaten forty ways from Sunday by the newcomer. We researched the case forty ways from Sunday, but there didn't seem to be any way that we could win with the evidence at hand.
See also: forty, Sunday, way

forty ways to Sunday

Thoroughly or completely; in every possible way; from every conceivable angle. Everyone had their money on the reigning champion, but he was beaten forty ways to Sunday by the newcomer. We researched the case forty ways to Sunday, but there didn't seem to be any way that we could win with the evidence at hand.
See also: forty, Sunday, to, way

forty winks

A nap or a brief sleep. When you have a baby for the first time, you are suddenly forced to learn how to operate on only forty winks at a time. I'm going to go grab a quick forty winks before everyone starts arriving for the dinner party.
See also: forty, wink

forty-something

1. adjective Of an unspecified age in one's forties. He looks like he's in his 60s, but he's really just forty-something.
2. noun A person who is in their forties. Usually used in the plural. I felt really out of place being so young at a party of forty-somethings.

go two-forty

To move very quickly; to race. The phrase refers to a horse racing record of a mile completed in two minutes and 40 seconds. I need to start going two-forty through this paperwork if I want to have it done by the deadline.
See also: go

have forty winks

To sleep for a short time; to take a nap. I had forty winks before we left for dinner, so I might actually stay awake now!
See also: forty, have, wink

hit parade

Any listing or inventory of the best or most popular persons or things in a given category. Anthony's bookshelves are a veritable hit parade of classic literature.
See also: hit, parade

life begins at 40

cliché One has the skills, experience, and means by age 40 to truly enjoy life to its fullest. A: "I'm so depressed that I'm going to turn 40 next year." B: "Come on, Tom, life begins at 40. You've still got all sorts of adventures ahead of you!"
See also: 40, begin, life

north forty

Forty acres on the northern section of a property. I think Pa's working up on the north forty—want me to take you over there?
See also: forty, north

take forty winks

To sleep for a short time; to take a nap. I took forty winks before we left for dinner, so I might actually stay awake now!
See also: forty, take, wink
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

catch forty winks

 and take forty winks; have forty winks
Fig. to take a nap; to get some sleep. I'll just catch forty winks before getting ready for the party. I think I'll go to bed and take forty winks. See you in the morning.
See also: catch, forty, wink

forty winks

Fig. a nap; some sleep. I could use forty winks before I have to get to work. I need forty winks before I get started again.
See also: forty, wink

Life begins at forty.

Prov. By the time you are forty years old, you have enough experience and skill to do what you want to do with your life. (Often said as an encouragement to those reaching middle age.) Alan: Why are you so depressed? Jane: Tomorrow's my fortieth birthday. Alan: Cheer up! Life begins at forty. For Pete, life began at forty, because by that time he had enough financial security to enjoy himself now and then, rather than having to work all the time.
See also: begin, forty, life
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

forty winks

A brief nap, as in There's just time for forty winks before we have to leave. This expression supposedly was first recorded in 1828 and relies on wink in the sense of "sleep," a usage dating from the 14th century.
See also: forty, wink

hit parade

A listing of the most popular or best items or individuals of some kind, as in The library has a veritable hit parade of videos. This expression dates from the 1930s, when it was the name of a weekly radio show featuring the most popular songs as indicated by record sales.
See also: hit, parade
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

forty winks

OLD-FASHIONED, INFORMAL
If you have forty winks, you have a short sleep. He always has forty winks after supper.
See also: forty, wink
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

forty winks

a short sleep or nap, especially during the day. informal
This expression dates from the early 19th century, but wink in the sense of ‘a closing of the eyes for sleep’ is found from the late 14th century.
See also: forty, wink
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

forty ˈwinks

(informal) a short sleep, especially during the day: I managed to get forty winks after lunch.
See also: forty, wink
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

forty winks

n. a nap; sleep. (Usually with a quantifier. Either forty or some, a few, a bunch of, etc.) I could use forty winks before I have to get to work.
See also: forty, wink
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

forty winks

A short nap. A wink has meant a sleep since the fourteenth century, when William Langland wrote “Thenne Wakede I of my wink” (Piers Ploughman, 1377). There is an apocryphal story about the origin of forty winks, stemming from an article in Punch (1872), the English humor magazine, about the long and tedious articles of faith required for Church of England clergy (“If a man, after reading through the thirty-nine Articles, were to take forty winks . . .”). However appealing this source, the term had appeared in print nearly a half-century earlier (in Pierce Egan’s Tom and Jerry, 1828), and its true origin has apparently been lost.
See also: forty, wink

hit parade

A listing of the most popular individuals or items of some kind, in order of rank. The term dates from the 1930s when it was the name of a weekly radio show playing the most popular songs as indicated by record sales. It was later extended to other circumstances, as in “That math professor is number one on the students’ hit parade.” A more recent locution is the Top 40, similarly rating songs on the basis of their sales.
See also: hit, parade
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

Forty acres and a mule

A a government handout; a broken promise. As Union general William T. Sherman marched through Georgia and other parts of the confederacy during the Civil War, he promised freed slaves the gift of forty acres of South Carolina and Georgia farmland and an army mule with which to work the soil. Following the war, however, President Johnson rescinded Sherman's order, and the appropriated land was restored to its owners. While most citizens adopted the phrase as a metaphor for either any form of government handout (or a trifling salary or bonus from their employer), African-Americans who remembered the expression's history used it as a rueful reminder of a offer that was reneged upon.
See also: acre, and, forty, mule
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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References in periodicals archive ?
Thai Oil has bought about 500,000 barrels of Forties from Unipec, the trading arm of Asia's largest refiner Sinopec, the sources said.
The oil will be discharged from Very Large Crude Carrier Marbat, which left Hound Point with Forties in September for Yangpu in China, the sources said.
Ship tracking data for December to the end of May shows oil majors such as BP, Royal Dutch Shell and trading house Vitol shipped 11 VLCCs of North Sea crude, mostly Forties, to South Korea, with flows averaging 120,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Although the volume accounts for only 0.1 percent of global annual consumption, its significance for the oil markers is huge as the flows account for a third of total output of Forties.
Nexen is conducting maintenance on the largest of the 50 fields that make up the Forties crude grade.
Despite the tightness, the strength in Forties still caught some traders by surprise.
Glencore holds the Forties cargoes loading March 19-21, March 20-22 and March 21-23.
A spokesman for Forties pipeline operator BP was not immediately available for comment and exact details of the maintenance, the duration of the work and the volume of oil to be affected were not clear.
Recent drilling has encountered an extension to the Huntington Forties Pool from the 22/14b-9 well and the 22/14b-9z sidetrack well.
The tone of the Young Dancer in the thirties and forties was informal and accessible, like a friendly small-town newspaper.
Breast cancers grow faster in women in their forties than in older women, notes the ACS.
The panel concluded by saying that women in their forties would have to make an individual decision on whether to obtain routine mammograms.
A separate review of eight trials finds no benefit from mammography screening from women in their forties. Both reports appear in the Oct.