Also found in: Thesaurus.
1. Arousing fear, dread, or alarm: the formidable prospect of major surgery.
2. Inspiring awe, admiration, or wonder: "A woman of formidable intelligence and tenacity, [she] prides herself on being independent-minded" (Nan Levinson).
3. Difficult to undertake, surmount, or defeat: a formidable challenge; a formidable opponent.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin formīdābilis, from formīdāre, to fear, from formīdō, fear.]
for′mi·da·bil′i·ty, for′mi·da·ble·ness n.
Usage Note: Traditionally formidable has been pronounced with stress on the first syllable, but recently the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable, which is a common variant in British English, has seen increasing use in American English. However, the traditional pronunciation is still preferred by a large majority of the Usage Panel. In our 2008 survey, 73 percent favored the pronunciation with stress on the first syllable, and 27 percent favored the other pronunciation. Both pronunciations are acceptable, however.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.