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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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 Tribune reporter looks back on becoming a fan of Kathy Stephenson’s writing during her formative years. The Salt Lake Tribune, 29 Sep. 2021 Here, Ferris answers EW's burning book questions about his formative reading years and his current writing process. Seija Rankin,, 29 Sep. 2021 The chip remained on the shoulder even after getting to the 2020 NBA Finals, and has, in fact, been firmly in place dating to his formative years in Texas. Ira Winderman,, 28 Sep. 2021 Unlike my formative years, when every jaunt off the train required another ticket in order to ride again, the round trip — hopping on and off at will — can be had for a mere $7 Saturday pass. Paul Eisenberg,, 26 Sep. 2021 To create the songs, frontman Brandon Flowers was inspired by his formative years in the tiny, remote Utah town of Nephi. Emily Zemler, Rolling Stone, 24 Sep. 2021 Afghanistan’s population skews very young) spent their formative years in the freer atmosphere that developed after the Taliban had been routed. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 24 Aug. 2021 Once again, a childhood experience proved formative. New York Times, 13 Apr. 2021 Just as Netflix spent its formative years mailing rental CDs to customers, London Theatre Direct didn’t actually do much online ticket selling. David Prosser, Forbes, 9 Sep. 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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Dictionary Entries Near formative

formation rule



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Last Updated

2 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Formative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 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

More from Merriam-Webster on formative

Nglish: Translation of formative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of formative for Arabic Speakers


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