Meaning of FORMAL in English

I. ˈfȯrməl, -ȯ(ə)m- adjective

Etymology: Middle English formal, formel, from Old French & Latin; Old French, from Latin formalis, from forma form + -alis -al


a. : belonging to or being the essential constitution of a thing as distinguished from the matter composing it

the formal nature of a square is a relation of lines and angles rather than a matter of space or solidity

often : having power to make a thing what it is : constitutive , essential

divine goodwill is the formal cause of human aspiration

b. : relating to, concerned with, or constituting the outward form, superficial qualities, or arrangement of something as distinguished from its content: as

(1) : of, relating to, or preoccupied with the material or compositional factors in art or emphasizing these over other factors (as subject matter or content)

a formal style in painting

often : having a symmetrical arrangement of elements

formal balance in design

a formal composition

(2) : consisting of, based upon, evidenced by, or considering observable similarities and differences in linguistic form as distinguished from logical, a priori, semantic, comparative, or historical similarities and differences

the formal approach to comparative linguistics

a formal classification of language

(3) : of, relating to, or constituting logical, epistemological, or ontological forms ; also : belonging to a formalized system : syntactical


a. : following or according with established form, custom, or rule : not deviating from what is usual or generally acceptable : conventional

still in constraint your suffering sex remains or bound in formal or in real chains — Alexander Pope

paying formal attentions to his hostess

b. : done in due form : carried out with solemnity : ceremonial

no noble rite nor formal ostentation — Shakespeare

received a formal rebuke before the whole congregation

c. obsolete : characterized by or formed in due order : regular


a. : based on forms and rules, especially such as are accepted by convention : of or following a prescribed form

a formal exposition

formal landscape architecture

a formal reception

b. : characterized by punctilious respect for form : exact , methodical , orderly

a man very formal in all his dealings

often : constrained by reason of excessive devotion to form : prim , rigid , stiff , ceremonious

those stern formal even formidable ancestors locked in their rigid armor of propriety

c. of a legal procedure : requiring special or stipulated solemnities or formalities to become effective (as in the creating of a legal relationship)

4. obsolete

a. : sound in mind : sane

b. : circumstantial

5. : having the appearance without the substance : being or subject to being so construed only as a matter of form

formal Christians who go to church on Easter Sunday to show off their new clothes

: nominal

a purely formal requirement that can be waived without trouble

a formal party to a suit

Synonyms: see ceremonial

II. noun

( -s )

: something formal in character: as

a. : a social affair (as a dance) requiring formal evening dress


(1) : evening dress

(2) : a man's formal evening costume

III. fȯrˈmal noun

( -s )

Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary, from formaldehyde

1. : methylal

2. : any acetal derived from formaldehyde and an alcohol

butyl formal

polyvinyl formal

IV. ˈfȯrməl adjective

Etymology: form ula + -al

: molar III 2

formal concentration of a solution

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.