"earlier in time," mid-12c., comparative of forme "first, earliest in time or order," from Old English forma "first," from Proto-Germanic *fruma-, *furma-, from PIE *pre-mo-, suffixed (superlative) form of root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of, before, first." Probably patterned on formest (see foremost); it is an unusual case of a comparative formed from a superlative (the Old English -m is a superlative suffix). As "first of two," 1580s.
"one who gives form," mid-14c., agent noun from form (v.). The Latin agent noun was formator.