Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Arousing fear, dread, or alarm: the formidable prospect of major surgery.
  • adj. Inspiring awe, admiration, or wonder: "Though a true hero, he was also a thoroughgoing bureaucrat and politician, a formidable combination” ( Mario Puzo).
  • adj. Difficult to undertake, surmount, or defeat: a formidable challenge; a formidable opponent.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. causing fear, dread, awe or admiration as a result of size, strength, or some other impressive quality; commanding respect
  • adj. difficult to defeat or overcome

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Exciting fear or apprehension; impressing dread; adapted to excite fear and deter from approach, encounter, or undertaking; alarming.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Exciting or fitted to excite fear or apprehension; hard to deal with; difficult to overcome, perform, or the like: applied to persons or things possessing such strength, power, or capability, or presenting such obstacles to action or progress, as to discourage effort or inspire dread of failure.
  • Synonyms Deterrent, discouraging, fearful, appalling, redoubtable.

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

  • adj. extremely impressive in strength or excellence
  • adj. inspiring fear

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin formīdābilis, from formīdāre, to fear, from formīdō, fear.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin formīdābilis ("formidable, terrible"), from formīdō ("fear, dread"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • From this latter practice arose their name — CONDOTTIERI; a term formidable all over Italy, for a period, which concluded in the earlier part of the seventeenth century, but of which it is not so easy to ascertain the commencement.

    The Mysteries of Udolpho

  • Fitch cautioned that the country's sovereign ratings remained constrained by relatively low levels of external liquidity as well as what it described as formidable social and structural challenges.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • From this latter practice arose their name -- CONDOTTIERI; a term formidable all over Italy, for a period, which concluded in the earlier part of the seventeenth century, but of which it is not so easy to ascertain the commencement.

    The Mysteries of Udolpho

  • He lauded Kagan for what he described as her formidable intellect and path-breaking career.

    Fore, right!

  • I think 'formidable' is appropriate, 'fearful' is applicable in a political sense but 'dreadful' is quite de trop.

    Free Enterprise in Canada

  • Needless to say, though the formal table setting has simplified much since the 19th century, the array of flatware, dishes and glasses remain formidable and continue to impose a barrier between the wealthy and the middle - and lower-classes.

    Setting the Table | Edwardian Promenade

  • Yet formidable is not a strong enough adjective to describe the conditions Richard had to overcome.

    Richard's troublesome tropical journey

  • When I spoke to Huddleston he was full of praise for Shuker, whom he described as a formidable opponent and star of a future Labour government.

    Esther Rantzen and the battle for Luton

  • This is an area surrounded by cacti, standing mature on the rims of cliffs, bleak yet luxuriant in formidable clusters.

    Real de Catorce: an outpost of progress

  • Their ability to replenish through the draft is why the Colts remain formidable despite losing Rhodes to the Oakland Raiders, linebacker Cato June to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and cornerback Nick Harper to the Tennessee Titans in free agency.

    Headed for Glendale: Some in NFL elite retool better

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