for·ma·tive | \ ˈfȯr-mə-tiv \

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

constructive, productive

Antonyms: Adjective

nonconstructive, nonproductive, unproductive

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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


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

That about covers his formative adolescent years, which is a difficult stage in life for anyone, let alone someone whose every move and young-love fling is being documented by the media., "You Won't Believe How Much Justin Bieber's Hair Has Changed," 10 July 2018 Melissa Riofrio spent her formative journalistic years reviewing some of the biggest iron at PCWorld--desktops, laptops, storage, printers. Melissa Riofrio, PCWorld, "What this puppy chatbot says about the friendly future of fintech for consumers," 14 June 2018 Well over 300,000 of the brightest young minds in China are spending a good proportion of their formative years enjoying the freedom of campus life in America, with ready access to all the information that censors once denied them. The Economist, "A formative experienceFor China’s elite, studying abroad is de rigueur," 17 May 2018 The effect that that had on these boys, these are the formative years, and the event was tremendous. Steve Helling,, "'She Should Not Be Around Children': La. Teacher Gets Five Years for Sexual Contact with Boys, 13 and 14," 14 May 2018 Much of the season, in relation to Kevin's development, worked to show the impact Jack's addiction and his early death had on Kevin during his formative teen years and into adulthood. Yvonne Villarreal,, "For Justin Hartley, sometimes you have to go it alone on 'This Is Us'," 8 May 2018 Kroll, especially, is hilarious as a d-bag rival to Dax who’s super-invested not just in reliving Dax’s formative childhood traumas but also propping up the movie’s product placement. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Why Uncle Drew looks to be a summer sleeper hit," 3 July 2018 In fact, our most formative memories are often the opposite of belonging. Cameron Glover, Allure, "On Janelle Monáe and the Power of Representation for Queer Black Girls," 21 June 2018 Since Kim Kardashian West first catapulted to fame from her formative reality-TV beginnings, her beauty has captured the public fascination—and inspired a million doppelgängers along the way. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "4 Times Kim Kardashian West Disrupted the Beauty Space," 4 June 2018

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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Statistics for formative

Last Updated

26 Jul 2018

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Time Traveler for formative

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

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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 \

Medical Definition of formative 

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

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Comments on formative

What made you want to look up formative? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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