for·​ma·​tive | \ ˈfȯr-mə-tiv How to pronounce formative (audio) \

Definition of formative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : giving or capable of giving form : constructive a formative influence
b : used in word formation or inflection
2 : capable of alteration by growth and development also : producing new cells and tissues
3 : of, relating to, or characterized by formative effects or formation formative years



Definition of formative (Entry 2 of 2)

: the element (such as a suffix) in a word that serves to give the word appropriate form and is not part of the base

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Other Words from formative


formatively adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for formative

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Did You Know?

Whatever gives shape to something else may be called formative: for example, the Grand Canyon is a product of the formative power of water, and the automobile was a huge formative influence on the design of America's cities. But it usually applies to some kind of shaping that isn't physical. An ambitious plan, for example, goes through a formative stage of development. The formative years of the U.S. included experimentation with various forms of government. And the most important formative experiences in our own lives tend to take place in the first 20 years or so.

Examples of formative in a Sentence

Adjective This experience had a formative influence on his art. a teacher who was a formative influence on generations of students
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Like Herman, Sarkisian spent his formative years in California. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Steve Sarkisian's new Texas regime keeps scoring big recruiting wins," 19 Feb. 2021 While those distinctions have blurred, some artists are looking back again to those formative years in the Mississippi Delta. Lici Beveridge, USA Today, "Raised in the Mississippi Delta, the blues shaped music for generations," 17 Feb. 2021 Much of the blame also goes to the man who gave him a platform during the alt-right’s formative years: Anthony Cumia. Seth Simons, The New Republic, "The Comedy Industry Has a Big Alt-Right Problem," 9 Feb. 2021 Mahoney considers this experience formative in his path to enlightenment. Ben Shpigel, New York Times, "Friday Night Bytes: Can Analytics Revolutionize High School Football?," 5 Nov. 2020 Those early experiences were difficult but formative. Vanese Maddix,, "The Hardest Part Of Dating Is Talking About My Mental Illnesses," 12 Oct. 2020 Like their grandparents and great-grandparents, these young people are enduring difficult and formative life experiences. Heidi Schneider, Star Tribune, "I have hope for America's next Great Generation," 17 Aug. 2020 Used here like a major weather event — the hurricane that reshapes a coastline or a wildfire that alters an ecosystem — crying is a formative as well as revelatory act. Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Washington Post, "In Matthew Baker’s ‘Why Visit America,’ the U.S. is an absurd place, but also full of hope," 13 Aug. 2020 King Boston was launched in 2017 to address what organizers viewed as a glaring deficiency, considering MLK spent some of his formative years in Boston. Philip Marcelo, Chron, "A memorial will rise in the spot where MLK and Coretta met and studied," 15 Jan. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'formative.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of formative


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1816, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for formative

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The first known use of formative was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Formative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for formative



English Language Learners Definition of formative

used to describe the time when someone or something is growing or being formed
: helping to develop something


for·​ma·​tive | \ ˈfȯr-mət-iv How to pronounce formative (audio) \

Medical Definition of formative

: capable of alteration by growth and development also : producing new cells and tissues

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