verb (used with object), for·mat·ted, for·mat·ting.

to plan or provide a format for: to format the annual telethon.
  1. to set the format of (input or output): Some word-processing programs format output in a variety of ways.
  2. to prepare (a disk) for writing and reading.

verb (used without object), for·mat·ted, for·mat·ting.

to devise a format.

Origin of format

1830–40; < French < Latin (liber) fōrmātus (a book) formed (in a certain way)
Related formsfor·mat·ter, nounpre·for·mat, verb (used with object), pre·for·mat·ted, pre·for·mat··for·mat, verb, re·for·mat·ted, re·for·mat·ting. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for formatting

Contemporary Examples of formatting

  • In order to “re-format,” however, it is crucial to understand how formatting went wrong in the first place.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The End Of Deterrence

    Nervana Mahmoud

    November 13, 2012

Historical Examples of formatting

  • The formatting of the original tables of contents has been normalised.

  • Punctuation, diacritical and formatting markup have been normalized.

    Little Jeanne of France

    Madeline Brandeis

  • Punctuation and formatting are inconsistent in the list of references and in headings.

    British Pomology

    Robert Hogg

  • Capitalization, accents and formatting markup have been normalized.

    Cyrano de Bergerac

    Edmond Rostand

  • Punctuation and formatting markup have been made consistent.

    Advice to Singers

    Frederick James Crowest

British Dictionary definitions for formatting



the general appearance of a publication, including type style, paper, binding, etc
an approximate indication of the size of a publication as determined by the number of times the original sheet of paper is folded to make a leafSee also duodecimo, quarto
style, plan, or arrangement, as of a television programme
  1. the defined arrangement of data encoded in a file or for example on magnetic disk or CD-ROM, essential for the correct recording and recovery of data on different devices
  2. the arrangement of text on printed output or a display screen, or a coded description of such an arrangement

verb -mats, -matting or -matted (tr)

to arrange (a book, page, etc) into a specified format

Word Origin for format

C19: via French from German, from Latin liber formātus volume formed
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

Word Origin and History for formatting



1840, via French format (18c.), ultimately from Modern Latin liber formatus "a book formed" (in such and such a way), referring to shape, size; from past participle of formare "to form" (see form (v.)).



used chiefly of computers, 1964, from format (n.). Related: Formatted; formatting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for formatting




The arrangement of data for storage or display.


To divide a disk into marked sectors so that it may store data.
To determine the arrangement of data for storage or display.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.