Often we say that an organization was founded a particular year. For example:

The supermarket where I work was founded in May 1999.

But I've sometimes seen "founded" in the sentence above being replaced with "formed":

The supermarket where I work was formed in May 1999.

Is it correct to say that an organization was "formed ..." instead of "founded in May 1999"? If so when?

Does it imply that the supermarket was formed by merging two existing supermarkets? Does it even imply that the supermarket is a cooperative?

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    It's a little iffy to use either term for a supermarket. But, while "formed" and "founded" have similar meanings in the context of creating an organization, "founded" implies a certain degree of rigor was involved (eg, a board of directors was selected and formal set of rules was adopted, or articles of incorporation were filed). "Formed", on the other hand, may just refer to the first time that the members of the band got together to jam. But it's not writ in stone. – Hot Licks Nov 13 '15 at 22:31
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    I believe it's equally correct to say an organization is founded or formed, since organization implies multiple elements. I don't think it necessarily implies a cooperative though, since an organization can found a business that may not have participating members. Where a corporation or business is concerned I think founded is almost universally employed. – Misneac Nov 13 '15 at 22:34
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    There are, in English, thankfully, many ways of saying lots of things. Have all the apples been eaten?, means the same thing as Have all the apples been consumed?. Boxes of leaflets have been delivered to us means more or less the same thing as Cartons of printed papers have arrived at our door. I believe @HotLicks rather over eggs the possible difference in meaning. Neither founded nor formed necessarily implies more rigour or legal process than the other. – WS2 Nov 13 '15 at 22:40
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    Founded is more formal. Another option is 'established' which is commonly used. – jamesh Nov 18 '15 at 11:03

More important than "formed" or "founded" in this specific example is this:

"The supermarket where I work opened in May, 1999."

When or how it was formed or founded is generally irrelevant, unless you are legally referring to when the organization that owns and operates the supermarket was incorporated, in which case that is the correct term to use.

In the non-profit sector, I would say that "founded" is generally preferred over "formed," in my experience. One might say, for example, that "The Vector Health Centers were founded by four physicians in 1976 and incorporated as a non-profit organization in Delaware in 1978. Vector is supported by numerous foundations, private gifts and public grants and cooperative agreements. It currently operates 23 primary care medical clinics in rural communities in five states as well as three countries in sub-Saharan Africa" (this is a wholly fictional example).

I have to agree with commenter Hot Licks that "formed" is vague and less specific than "founded" or "established" (as suggested by jamesh, above) with regards to the OP's questions.


As I understand it, founded would relate to when the founder(s) got the idea for the organisation. Then the founders form the organisation.

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