Formative is a word that describes something that made you who you are. You might call your adolescence your formative years because that time period had such a strong influence on the rest of your life.

The word form means “to shape.” Something that is formative is capable of shaping or molding something or someone. A formative experience is one that strongly influenced you, like the first time you went to the beach and decided, from that day, that you wanted to become a world-class surfer. Formative can also describe an organism that is able to form new cells. In linguistics, the noun formative is a small language unit that can help shape or form a word.

Definitions of formative
  1. noun
    minimal language unit that has a syntactic (or morphological) function
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    type of:
    language unit, linguistic unit
    one of the natural units into which linguistic messages can be analyzed
  2. adjective
    forming or capable of forming or molding or fashioning
    “a formative influence”
    “a formative experience”
    synonyms: plastic, shaping
    constructing or tending to construct or improve or promote development
  3. adjective
    capable of forming new cells and tissues
    “a formative zone in developing bone”
    constructing or tending to construct or improve or promote development
Commonly confused words

formidable / formative

Formidable describes a foe you're slightly afraid of, but formative describes what formed you. Perhaps a formidable gym teacher told you to get the lead out during your formative years in grade school, and now you're a world-class athlete. (Or a bookworm, depending on how you react to formidable foes.)

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