View synonyms for formal



[ fawr-muhl ]


  1. being in accordance with the usual requirements, customs, etc.; conventional:

    to pay one's formal respects.

  2. marked by form or ceremony:

    a formal occasion.

  3. designed for wear or use at occasions or events marked by elaborate ceremony or prescribed social observance:

    The formal attire included tuxedos and full-length gowns.

  4. requiring a type of dress suitable for such occasions:

    a formal dance.

  5. observant of conventional requirements of behavior, procedure, etc., as persons; ceremonious.

    Synonyms: conformist

  6. excessively ceremonious:

    a manner that was formal and austere.

    Synonyms: punctilious

  7. being a matter of form only; perfunctory:

    We expected more than just formal courtesy.

  8. made or done in accordance with procedures that ensure validity:

    a formal authorization.

    Synonyms: official, legal

  9. of, relating to, or emphasizing the organization or composition of the constituent elements in a work of art perceived separately from its subject matter:

    a formal approach to painting; the formal structure of a poem.

  10. being in accordance with prescribed or customary forms:

    a formal siege.

  11. Theater. (of a stage setting) generalized and simplified in design, especially of architectural elements, and serving as a permanent set for a play irrespective of changes in location.
  12. acquired in school; academic:

    He had little formal training in economics.

  13. symmetrical or highly organized:

    a formal garden.

  14. of, reflecting, or noting a usage of language in which syntax, pronunciation, etc., adhere to traditional standards of correctness and usage is characterized by the absence of casual, contracted, and colloquial forms:

    The paper was written in formal English.

  15. Philosophy.
    1. pertaining to form.
    2. Aristotelianism. not material; essential.
  16. pertaining to the form, shape, or mode of a thing, especially as distinguished from the substance:

    formal writing, bereft of all personality.

  17. being such merely in appearance or name; nominal:

    a formal head of the government having no actual powers.

  18. Mathematics.
    1. (of a proof ) in strict logical form with a justification for every step.
    2. (of a calculation) correct in form; made with strict justification for every step.
    3. (of a calculation, derivation, representation, or the like) of or relating to manipulation of symbols without regard to their meaning.


  1. a dance, ball, or other social occasion that requires formalwear.
  2. an evening gown.


  1. in formal attire:

    We're supposed to go formal.



[ fawr-mal ]


, Chemistry.



/ ˈfɔːmæl /


  1. another name for methylal



/ ˈfɔːməl /


  1. of, according to, or following established or prescribed forms, conventions, etc

    a formal document

  2. characterized by observation of conventional forms of ceremony, behaviour, dress, etc

    a formal dinner

  3. methodical, precise, or stiff
  4. suitable for occasions organized according to conventional ceremony

    formal dress

  5. denoting or characterized by idiom, vocabulary, etc, used by educated speakers and writers of a language
  6. acquired by study in academic institutions

    a formal education

  7. regular or symmetrical in form

    a formal garden

  8. of or relating to the appearance, form, etc, of something as distinguished from its substance
  9. logically deductive

    formal proof

  10. philosophy
    1. of or relating to form as opposed to matter or content
    2. pertaining to the essence or nature of something

      formal cause

    3. (in the writings of Descartes) pertaining to the correspondence between an image or idea and its object
    4. being in the formal mode
  11. denoting a second-person pronoun in some languages used when the addressee is a stranger, social superior, etc

    in French the pronoun ``vous'' is formal, while ``tu'' is informal

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Derived Forms

  • ˈformally, adverb
  • ˈformalness, noun
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Other Words From

  • formal·ness noun
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Word History and Origins

Origin of formal1

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English formal, formel, from Latin fōrmālis; form, -al 1

Origin of formal2

First recorded in 1895–1900; from formaldehyde
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Word History and Origins

Origin of formal1

C19: from form ( ic ) + -al ³

Origin of formal2

C14: from Latin formālis
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Synonym Study

Formal, academic, conventional may have either favorable or unfavorable implications. Formal may mean in proper form, or may imply excessive emphasis on empty form. In the favorable sense, academic applies to scholars or higher institutions of learning; it may, however, imply slavish conformance to mere rules, or to belief in impractical theories. Conventional, in a favorable sense, applies to desirable conformity with accepted conventions or customs; but it more often is applied to arbitrary, forced, or meaningless conformity.
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Example Sentences

Broadly, the war is between the formal linguists and the sociolinguists.

Taking place after the 400-person formal dinner, it’s geared specifically toward younger people and costs less than one-third of the spring benefit’s entry-level ticket.

From Fortune

No surprise, there’s been a trend away from formal event–oriented wear, but other than that there hasn’t been much change.

From Fortune

Those interactions are less formal than what you get with video-conferencing services.

It’s not as formal as perhaps a medical leave of absence where a third party is approving a leave request.

From Fortune

As a result, training squadrons—called Formal Training Units (FTU)—are being staffed with less than half the people they need.

He hoped also to be a chaplain through his local church, and he was nearing the end of his formal training.

“The psychology of BDSM is lacking in other formal training regiments and interactions,” added Stella.

I remember that he's a food-and-wine maven and rather formal.

“To my knowledge, there was no formal consultation done with the tribes on this policy,” says Eid.

Twice a year the formal invitation was sent out by the old nobleman to his only son, and to his two nephews.

Various matters mentioned by the governor receive perfunctory and formal answers.

Tressan advanced to meet him, a smile of cordial welcome on his lips, and they bowed to each other in formal greeting.

She sat in a distant corner of the formal room discreetly lit by a shaded lamp.

There were two hard formal-looking couches, with straight backs and spider legs.





formabilityformal cause