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See more synonyms for formative on Thesaurus.com
  1. giving form or shape; forming; shaping; fashioning; molding: a formative process in manufacturing.
  2. pertaining to formation or development: a child's most formative years.
  3. Biology.
    1. capable of developing new cells or tissue by cell division and differentiation: formative tissue.
    2. concerned with the formation of an embryo, organ, or the like.
  4. Grammar. pertaining to a formative.
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  1. Grammar. a derivational affix, particularly one that determines the part of speech of the derived word, as -ness, in loudness, hardness, etc.
  2. Linguistics. (in generative grammar) any element, as a word, affix, or inflectional ending, functioning as a minimal syntactic unit that can be used in forming larger constructions.
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Origin of formative

From the Middle French word formatif, dating back to 1480–90. See formation, -ive
Related formsform·a·tive·ly, adverbform·a·tive·ness, nounnon·form·a·tive, adjectivenon·form·a·tive·ly, adverbsub·form·a·tive, adjectivesub·form·a·tive·ly, adverbsub·form·a·tive·ness, nounun·form·a·tive, adjective
Can be confusedformative formidable

Synonyms for formative

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for formative

developmental, sensitive, determinative, shaping, immature, impressible, malleable, pliant, susceptible, moldable

Examples from the Web for formative

Contemporary Examples of formative

Historical Examples of formative

  • In its literal sense Bildung implies a shaping and formative action.

    The New Society

    Walther Rathenau

  • Evolution, like development, was due to a Bildungskraft or formative force.

    Form and Function

    E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell

  • Formative Reize in der thierischen Ontogenese, Leipzig, 1901.

    Form and Function

    E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell

  • He had undergone the labours of a titan for twelve eventful and formative years.

  • Perhaps the Chiltern she had married was as yet in a formative state.

British Dictionary definitions for formative


  1. of or relating to formation, development, or growthformative years
  2. shaping; mouldinga formative experience
  3. (of tissues and cells in certain parts of an organism) capable of growth and differentiation
  4. functioning in the formation of derived, inflected, or compound words
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  1. an inflectional or derivational affix
  2. (in generative grammar) any of the minimum units of a sentence that have syntactic function
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Derived Formsformatively, adverbformativeness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for formative


late 15c., from Middle French formatif, from Latin format-, past participle stem of formare (see form (n.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper