[ fawr-muh-liz-uh m ]
/ ˈfɔr məˌlɪz əm /


strict adherence to, or observance of, prescribed or traditional forms, as in music, poetry, and art.
Religion. strong attachment to external forms and observances.
Ethics. a doctrine that acts are in themselves right or wrong regardless of consequences.
Logic, Mathematics. a doctrine, which evolved from a proposal of David Hilbert, that mathematics, including the logic used in proofs, can be based on the formal manipulation of symbols without regard to their meaning.

Origin of formalism

First recorded in 1830–40; formal1 + -ism

OTHER WORDS FROM formalism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for formalistic

  • We should like to call this school the Natural in contradistinction to the Naturalesque and Formalistic schools.

    The Book of Tea|Kakuzo Okakura
  • In a dry, formalistic way, Primrose asked: "My dear brother, are you prepared for the great change!"

  • The Formalistic schools, led by the Ikenobos, aimed at a classic idealism corresponding to that of the Kano-academicians.

    The Book of Tea|Kakuzo Okakura
  • Broadly speaking, these divide themselves into two main branches, the Formalistic and the Naturalesque.

    The Book of Tea|Kakuzo Okakura

British Dictionary definitions for formalistic

/ (ˈfɔːməˌlɪzəm) /


scrupulous or excessive adherence to outward form at the expense of inner reality or content
  1. the mathematical or logical structure of a scientific argument as distinguished from its subject matter
  2. the notation, and its structure, in which information is expressed
theatre a stylized mode of production
(in Marxist criticism) excessive concern with artistic technique at the expense of social values, etc
the philosophical theory that a mathematical statement has no meaning but that its symbols, regarded as physical objects, exhibit a structure that has useful applicationsCompare logicism, intuitionism

Derived forms of formalism

formalist, nounformalistic, adjectiveformalistically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012