FORTY, the cardinal number equal to four tens. The word is derived from the O. Eng. feówertig, a combination of feówer, four, and tig, an old form of "ten," used as a suffix, cf. Icel. tiu, Dan. ti, ten, and Ger. vierzig, forty. The name "The Forty" has been given to various bodies composed of that number of members, particularly to a judicial body in ancient Athens, who tried small cases in the rural districts, and to a court of criminal jurisdiction and two civil appeal courts in the Venetian republic. The French Academy (see Academies) has also been known as "The Forty" or "The Forty Immortals." The period just before the repeal of the corn laws in the United Kingdom is frequently alluded to, particularly by the free trade school, as the "hungry forties"; and the "roaring forties" is a sailor's name for the stormy region between the 40th and 50th latitudes N. and S., but more particularly applied to the portion of the north Atlantic lying between those latitudes.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)