• synonyms


noun, plural for·mu·las, for·mu·lae [fawr-myuh-lee] /ˈfɔr myəˌli/.
  1. a set form of words, as for stating or declaring something definitely or authoritatively, for indicating procedure to be followed, or for prescribed use on some ceremonial occasion.
  2. any fixed or conventional method for doing something: His mystery stories were written according to a popular formula.
  3. Mathematics.
    1. a rule or principle, frequently expressed in algebraic symbols.
    2. such a symbolic expression.
  4. Chemistry. an expression of the constituents of a compound by symbols and figures.Compare empirical formula, molecular formula, structural formula.
  5. a recipe or prescription: a new formula for currant wine.
  6. a special nutritive mixture, especially of milk, sugar, and water, in prescribed proportions for feeding a baby.
  7. a formal statement of religious doctrine.
  8. (initial capital letter) a set of specifications as to weight, engine displacement, fuel capacity, etc., for defining a class of racing cars (usually followed by a limiting numerical designation): Some races are open to Formula One cars.
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Origin of formula

1575–85; < Latin: register, form, rule. See form, -ule
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for formulae

Historical Examples

  • Formulae which place the salts in separate solutions are a mistake.

    Bromide Printing and Enlarging

    John A. Tennant

  • Its spirit if not its formulae is abundantly present in our modern world.

  • He does not; but, none the less, the three formulae for the three situations are there.

  • There is a curious reciprocity in formulae such as we have just given.

  • We may compare also the formulae used in greetings to strangers.

    The Heroic Age

    H. Munro Chadwick

British Dictionary definitions for formulae


noun plural -las or -lae (-ˌliː)
  1. an established form or set of words, as used in religious ceremonies, legal proceedings, etc
  2. maths physics a general relationship, principle, or rule stated, often as an equation, in the form of symbols
  3. chem a representation of molecules, radicals, ions, etc, expressed in the symbols of the atoms of their constituent elementsSee molecular formula, empirical formula, structural formula
    1. a method, pattern, or rule for doing or producing something, often one proved to be successful
    2. (as modifier)formula fiction
    1. a prescription for making up a medicine, baby's food, etc
    2. a substance prepared according to such a prescription
  4. motor racing the specific category in which a particular type of car competes, judged according to engine size, weight, and fuel capacity
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Derived Formsformulaic (ˌfɔːmjʊˈleɪɪk), adjective

Word Origin

C17: from Latin: diminutive of forma form
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 formulae

plural of formula.

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1630s, "words used in a ceremony or ritual," from Latin formula "form, draft, contract, regulation; rule, method, formula," literally "small form," diminutive of forma "form" (see form (n.)).

Modern sense is colored by Carlyle's use (1837) of the word for "rule slavishly followed without understanding" [OED].

Men who try to speak what they believe, are naked men fighting men quilted sevenfold in formulae. [Charles Kingsley, "Letters," 1861]

Mathematical use is from 1796; use in chemistry is from c.1846.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

formulae in Medicine


n. pl. for•mu•las
  1. A symbolic representation of the chemical composition or of the chemical composition and structure of a compound.
  2. The chemical compound so represented.
  3. A prescription of ingredients in fixed proportion; a recipe.
  4. A liquid food for infants, containing most of the nutrients in human milk.
  5. A mathematical statement, especially an equation, of a fact, rule, principle, or other logical relation.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

formulae in Science


Plural formulas formulae (fôrmyə-lē′)
  1. A set of symbols showing the composition of a chemical compound. A formula lists the elements contained within it and indicates the number of atoms of each element with a subscript numeral if the number is more than 1. For example, H2O is the formula for water, where H2 indicates two atoms of hydrogen and O indicates one atom of oxygen.
  2. A set of symbols expressing a mathematical rule or principle. For example, the formula for the area of a rectangle is a = lw, where a is the area, l the length, and w the width.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.