from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Forming or capable of forming.
  • adjective Susceptible to transformation by growth and development.
  • adjective Biology Capable of producing new cells or tissue.
  • adjective Of or relating to formation, growth, or development.
  • adjective Linguistics Relating to the formation or inflection of words.
  • noun A derivational or inflectional affix.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Giving form or shape; having the power of giving form; plastic; shaping; molding; determining: as, the formative yolk of an egg, which changes into an embryo; a formative process.
  • Pertaining to formation or development; related to the fixation of or growth into form or order: as, the formative period of youth or of a nation; formative experiments.
  • In grammar, serving to form; determining grammatical form or character as a part of speech or derivative; inflectional: as, a formative termination.
  • noun In grammar, a formative element of a word; that which serves to give grammatical form; an addition to or modification of a root or crude form, giving it special character.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun That which serves merely to give form, and is no part of the radical, as the prefix or the termination of a word.
  • noun A word formed in accordance with some rule or usage, as from a root.
  • adjective Giving form; having the power of giving form; plastic.
  • adjective (Gram.) Serving to form; derivative; not radical.
  • adjective (Biol.) Capable of growth and development; germinal.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Of or pertaining to the formation and subsequent growth of something.
  • adjective Capable of forming something.
  • adjective biology Capable of producing new tissue.
  • adjective grammar Pertaining to the inflection of words.
  • noun grammar A language unit that has morphological function.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun minimal language unit that has a syntactic (or morphological) function
  • adjective forming or capable of forming or molding or fashioning
  • adjective capable of forming new cells and tissues


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • Even though I have found it virtually impossible to 'change' somebodies morals after a certain formative period in their lives.

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  • Coaching in formative years is vital and it is for this reason that I have believed fervently for years that our priorities in this regard have been wrong, the inverse of how it should be, where the best coaches (which does not necessarily mean the most qualified) concentrate on juniors in their early teens, when bodies, muscle memory and brains are receptive to change, rather than on older groups as a hierarchical thing.

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  • Nor yet did Eastlake confine himself to the external forms of art and nature; he then laid the foundation of that intimate knowledge of the arts, be they called formative, architectural, plastic, or pictorial, the able elucidation of which renders his writings so valuable.

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  • —The yolk comprises (1) the cytoplasm of the ordinary animal cell with its spongioplasm and hyaloplasm; this is frequently termed the formative yolk; (2) the nutritive yolk or deutoplasm, which consists of numerous rounded granules of fatty and albuminoid substances imbedded in the cytoplasm.

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  • Here's an online (e.g. superquick-accessible) resource where I pilfered the midterm formative assessment logistics.

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  • Before Messrs. Wright and Ayers, though, there was "Frank," the name Obama gives in his memoirs to a man he describes as a formative influence during his early years in Hawaii.

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  • Ironically, despite the travails of all concerned in Ecuador, this project, even though still formative is more likely to be able to gain momentum than many other projects in many other countries, including those more advanced on the studies’ front.

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  • Archaeologically used to describe the emergence of a new cultural tradition.

    November 25, 2007