Meaning of FORMAL in English

I. ˈfȯr-məl adjective

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin formalis, from forma

Date: 14th century


a. : belonging to or constituting the form or essence of a thing

formal cause

b. : relating to or involving the outward form, structure, relationships, or arrangement of elements rather than content

formal logic

a formal style of painting

a formal approach to comparative linguistics


a. : following or according with established form, custom, or rule

lacked formal schooling

a formal dinner party

formal attire

b. : done in due or lawful form

a formal contract

received formal recognition


a. : characterized by punctilious respect for form : methodical

very formal in all his dealings

b. : rigidly ceremonious : prim

4. : having the appearance without the substance

formal Christians who go to church only at Easter

Synonyms: see ceremonial

• for·mal·ly -mə-lē adverb

• for·mal·ness noun

II. noun

Date: 1605

: something (as a dance or a dress) formal in character

III. adjective

Etymology: form ula + -al (I)

Date: circa 1934

: molar III

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate English vocabulary.      Энциклопедический словарь английского языка Merriam Webster.