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

Made some of the great, great formative movies for me in the 70s and 80s. Eric Johnson, Recode, "‘The Front Runner’ director Jason Reitman says technology has taught today’s young people how to be great filmmakers," 1 Nov. 2018 His book The Conscience of a Conservative was a formative text of modern-day conservatism, making the case for principles of limited government, free markets, and anti-communism at a time when the ideological right had much less power in the party. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "Jeff Flake’s Brett Kavanaugh delay, and difficult history with Trump, explained," 28 Sep. 2018 Arnold, who holds a degree in film from Columbia University, spent her formative summers training, teaching, and living with Allen in Los Angeles. Vogue, "The New Crew: Meet Los Angeles Tap Troupe Syncopated Ladies," 18 Sep. 2018 Cold flow accretion refers to how galaxies collect surrounding gas during their formative process. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Milky Way Died 7 Billion Years Ago And Came Back To Life," 24 Aug. 2018 Working with him for four years at the Bagby Restaurant Group was a formative period in my time in my career and in Baltimore. Christina Tkacik,, "Chris Becker, Baltimore chef and former Bagby Restaurant Group CEO, dies," 27 June 2018 According to Deadline, the eight episode series will be told through multiple points of view and focus on the last decade of Ailes’ life, while flashing back on formative events in his life. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "Russell Crowe Will Star as Roger Ailes on a New Showtime Series," 25 June 2018 Every formative moment in our lives is accompanied by a piece of jewelry, from our class rings at graduation, to the baubles adorning our necks and ears at prom. Jessica Andrews, Teen Vogue, "Ciara Talks Jewelry Trends, Personal Style and Womens Empowerment," 15 Mar. 2018 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

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

15 Nov 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).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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