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Difference between Forthcoming and Forthright

Forthcoming and Forthright

What is the difference between forthcoming and forthright? Both words are adjectives that can be used to describe someone that gives their opinion readily. Often times, these words are used as synonyms or used interchangeably. The words also sound similar, both containing the word, ‘forth’. However, a more careful look at both of these words shows slightly different shades of meaning.

‘Forthcoming’ is an adjective that means appearing, arriving or happening soon. It can be used to describe both people and things. The 16th century origin of the word is the combination of ‘come’ and ‘forth’, so literally the word means to come forth with something. For example: I am eagerly anticipating the forthcoming concert. In time, it eventually came to have the meaning of being readily available, honest or open about something. It can be used to describe a person that is very outgoing or outspoken about their thoughts and ideas. For example: She is very forthcoming with her ideas for trying new concepts. Finally, ‘forthcoming’ has come to also describe a person that is very informative or responsive. For example: He was forthcoming with information about what to see on our upcoming trip to China.

‘Forthright’ is also an adjective. Although it can be applied to both people and things, it is generally applied mostly to people as a character trait. It means to be honest and direct or to provide clear and direct answers. For example: She was forthright in her criticism of my artwork. ‘Forthright’ conveys the idea of simple and without excess information. It can well be described by the idioms, ‘straight to the point’ or ‘not beating around the bush’. A ‘forthright’ person is not ambiguous, but is frank and plain about what they say or do. For example: He is forthright in his approach to teaching, no frills, just the important information. This is compatible with the origin of ‘forthright’. It originally was a noun or adverb that meant a straight line or course directly forward. Although not used in a literal sense this way anymore today, it is used figuratively in this sense as an adjective.

So both ‘forthcoming’ and ‘forthright’ are indeed similar in meaning, and can both be correctly applied to a person that gives a direct and open comment. However, ‘forthright’ implies a simple bluntness in manner. And while forthcoming person likes to give their opinion, they are not necessarily as clear and to the point as much as a forthright person. ‘Forthcoming’ also retains its original meaning of something approaching or coming soon, while ‘forthright’ has lost the usage of its original meaning of a straight path. While the difference in meaning and usage of these two similar words is slight, the various shades of meaning should be considered when using either word for clarity and forthrightness.

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