(third-person singular simple present forks, present participle forking, simple past and past participle forked)
- To divide into two or more branches.
- A road, a tree, or a stream forks.
- To move with a fork (as hay or food).
- (computer science) To spawn a new child process in some sense duplicating the existing process.
- (computer science) To split a (software) project into several projects.
- (UK) To kick someone in the crotch.
- To shoot into blades, as corn does.
From Middle English forke (“digging fork”), from Old English force, forca (“forked instrument used to torture”), from Proto-Germanic *furkǭ, *furkô (“fork”), from Latin furca (“pitchfork, forked stake", also "gallows, beam, stake, support post, yoke”), of uncertain origin. The Middle English word was later reinforced by Anglo-Norman, Old Northern French forque (= Old French forche whence French fourche), also from the Latin. Cognate also with North Frisian forck (“fork”), Dutch vork (“fork”), Danish fork (“fork”), German Forke (“pitchfork”). Displaced native gafol, ġeafel, ġeafle (“fork”), from Old English.
In its primary sense of "fork", Latin furca appears to be derived from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰerk(ʷ)-, *ǵʰerg(ʷ)- (“fork”), although the development of the -c- is difficult to explain. In other senses this derivation is unlikely. For these, perhaps it is connected to Proto-Germanic *furkaz, *firkalaz (“stake, stick, pole, post”), from Proto-Indo-European *perg- (“pole, post”). If so, this would relate the word to Old English forclas (“bolt”) (plural), Old Saxon fercal (“lock, bolt, bar”), Old Norse forkr (“pole, staff, stick”), Norwegian fork (“stick, bat”), Swedish fork (“pole”).