formidable

People who are formidable inspire fear and respect thanks to their size, or special ability, or unusual qualities. If you're a wildly popular celebrity, you probably don't go anywhere without a formidable bodyguard.

What's interesting about formidable is that we often tend to use it about things that are simultaneously a scary and impressive. A formidable opponent is almost by definition a worthy one; a formidable challenge is almost by definition one worth rising to. Not surprisingly, this word is derived from the Latin formidare, "to fear."

Definitions of formidable
  1. adjective
    extremely impressive in strength or excellence
    “a formidable opponent”
    “the challenge was formidable
    “had a formidable array of compositions to his credit”
    “the formidable army of brains at the Prime Minister's disposal”
    Synonyms:
    impressive
    making a strong or vivid impression
  2. adjective
    inspiring fear
    “the formidable prospect of major surgery”
    synonyms: redoubtable, unnerving
    alarming
    frightening because of an awareness of danger
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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