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 The staff letter also praised Keisling for building the most formative transgender rights organization. NBC News, "Leading U.S. transgender rights group sees mass employee exodus," 18 Nov. 2019 After the initial formative burst in the 1990s, the groups declined from 2001-2007, then rebounded with the election of President Barack Obama, Pitcavage said. Brian Albrecht,, "The rise of modern militias," 28 July 2019 So many of us in today's Dallas art world have forgotten the formative phase of our beloved museum, a phase of which Lunsford was the principal curatorial force. Dallas News, "Appreciating John Lunsford, key in spurring Dallas Museum of Art's global reach," 3 July 2019 Growing up in Manchester, N.H., Sandler was almost pathologically well-adjusted, lacking a formative wound of the type that leads people to get up onstage and beg for the adulation of crowds. Jamie Lauren Keiles, New York Times, "Adam Sandler’s Everlasting Shtick," 27 Nov. 2019 And, while it hasn’t been eulogized with the same fanfare as the other formative HBO dramas, to my eye, Six Feet Under’s vision of a diverse and porous postnuclear family is unrivaled in both prescience and earned sentiment. Adam Wilson, Harper's magazine, "Good Bad Bad Good," 16 Sep. 2019 His early entry into the consciousness of football fans, his groundbreaking decision to join the upstart league and his role in the biggest trade in NFL history solidify Walker’s place among the formative figures of the game. The Si Staff,, "100 Figures Who Shaped the NFL’s First Century," 28 Aug. 2019 Sleet is also a pellet-y precipitation and may appear very similar to graupel, but its formative processes are different. Matthew Cappucci,, "Bombogenesis, thundersnow and the polar vortex: Explaining what your favorite winter weather terms mean," 21 Nov. 2019 Like many Gen Z’ers, High School Musical played a formative role in my childhood. Gianluca Russo, Teen Vogue, "The Body Diversity on the New “High School Musical” Series Is Martha Cox-Approved," 17 Nov. 2019

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

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Formative.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for formative


How to pronounce formative (audio)

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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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).


dull or mediocre

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