formidable

What do the national debt, your old gym teacher, and your mother-in-law have in common? They're all formidable — that is, they inspire fear and respect thanks to their size, or special ability, or unusual qualities. (Or possibly all three in the case of your mother-in-law.)

What's interesting about formidable is that we often tend to use it about things that, while they may scare us, we can't help being pretty impressed by all the same. A formidable opponent is almost by definition a worthy one; a formidable challenge almost by definition one worth rising to. Not surprisingly, this word is derived from the Latin formidare, "to fear."

Definitions of formidable
1

adj 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

adj inspiring fear

“the formidable prospect of major surgery”
Synonyms:
redoubtable, unnerving
alarming
frightening because of an awareness of danger

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