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

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”
making a strong or vivid impression

adj inspiring fear

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

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.