What does formal mean?

Definitions for formal
ˈfɔr məlfor·mal

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word formal.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. ball, formalnoun

    a lavish dance requiring formal attire

  2. dinner dress, dinner gown, formal, evening gownadjective

    a gown for evening wear

  3. formaladjective

    being in accord with established forms and conventions and requirements (as e.g. of formal dress)

    "pay one's formal respects"; "formal dress"; "a formal ball"; "the requirement was only formal and often ignored"; "a formal education"

  4. formaladjective

    characteristic of or befitting a person in authority

    "formal duties"; "an official banquet"

  5. formaladjective

    (of spoken and written language) adhering to traditional standards of correctness and without casual, contracted, and colloquial forms

    "the paper was written in formal English"

  6. conventional, formal, schematicadjective

    represented in simplified or symbolic form

  7. formaladjective

    logically deductive

    "formal proof"

  8. courtly, formal, statelyadjective

    refined or imposing in manner or appearance; befitting a royal court

    "a courtly gentleman"


  1. formalnoun


  2. formalnoun

    an evening gown

  3. formalnoun

    an event with a formal dress code

    Jenny took Sam to her Year 12 formal.

  4. formaladjective

    being in accord with established forms

  5. formaladjective


  6. formaladjective

    relating to the form or structure of something

  7. formaladjective


  8. formaladjective

    Organized; well-structured and planned.

  9. Etymology: From formel, from formel, from formalis, from forma; see form.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. FORMALadjective

    Etymology: formel, French; formalis, Latin.

    The justice,
    In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
    With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances,
    And so he plays his part. William Shakespeare, As you like it.

    Formal in apparel,
    In gait and countenance surely like a father. William Shakespeare.

    Ceremonies especially be not to be omitted to strangers and formal natures; but the exalting them above the mean is not only tedious, but doth diminish the credit of him that speaks. Francis Bacon, Essay 53.

    There is not any positive law of men, whether it be general or particular, received by formal express consent, as in councils; or by secret approbation, as in customs it cometh to pass, but the same may be taken away, if occasion serve. Richard Hooker, b. iv. s. 14.

    As there are formal and written leagues, respective to certain enemies; so there is a natural and tacit confederation amongst all men against the common enemy of human society, so as there needs no intimation or denunciation of the war; but all these formalities the law of nature supplies, as in the case of pyrates. Francis Bacon, Holy War.

    The formal stars do travel so,
    As we their names and courses know;
    And he that on their changes looks,
    Would think them govern’d by our books. Edmund Waller.

    Of formal duty, make no more thy boast;
    Thou disobey’st where it concerns me most. John Dryden, Aureng.

    Still in constraint your suffering sex remains,
    Or bound in formal or in real chains. Alexander Pope.

    Of letters the material part is breath and voice: the formal is constituted by the motions and figure of the organs of speech affecting breath with a peculiar sound, by which each letter is discriminated. William Holder, Elements of Speech.

    Bellarmine agrees in making the formal act of adoration to be subjection to a superior; but withal he makes the mere apprehension of excellency to include the formal reason of it: whereas mere excellency, without superiority, doth not require any subjection, but only estimation. Edward Stillingfleet.

    The very life and vital motion, and the formal essence and nature of man, is wholly owing to the power of God. Richard Bentley.

    Thou shou’dst come like a fury cover’d with snakes,
    Not like a formal man. William Shakespeare, Ant. and Cleopatra.

    I will not let him stir,
    ’Till I have us’d th’ approved means I have;
    With wholsome syrups, drugs, and holy prayers,
    To make of him a formal man again. William Shakespeare, Com. of Err.


  1. formal

    Formal refers to something that adheres to traditional, standard or established conventions, rules, or procedures. It can be related to events, dress code, writing, speech, agreements, or education that are done in a highly organized and official manner giving importance to propriety and seriousness. It often involves a proper, sophisticated and polite mode of behaviour or appearance.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Formalnoun

    see Methylal

  2. Formaladjective

    belonging to the form, shape, frame, external appearance, or organization of a thing

  3. Formaladjective

    belonging to the constitution of a thing, as distinguished from the matter composing it; having the power of making a thing what it is; constituent; essential; pertaining to or depending on the forms, so called, of the human intellect

  4. Formaladjective

    done in due form, or with solemnity; according to regular method; not incidental, sudden or irregular; express; as, he gave his formal consent

  5. Formaladjective

    devoted to, or done in accordance with, forms or rules; punctilious; regular; orderly; methodical; of a prescribed form; exact; prim; stiff; ceremonious; as, a man formal in his dress, his gait, his conversation

  6. Formaladjective

    having the form or appearance without the substance or essence; external; as, formal duty; formal worship; formal courtesy, etc

  7. Formaladjective

    dependent in form; conventional

  8. Formaladjective

    sound; normal

  9. Etymology: [L. formic + alcohol.]


  1. Formal

    Formal Hall or Formal Meal is the meal held at some of the oldest, universities in the United Kingdom and Ireland at which students dress in formal attire and often gowns to dine. These are held commonly in the colleges of, for examples, Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, Durham and St Andrews, as well as the University of London, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, and Trinity College, Toronto. In a number of red brick universities, some halls such as those in at Manchester, Bristol and Exeter also practise similar traditions in order to increase interaction between academics and students, and to enrich the students' overall learning experience. The nature of Formals varies widely between the colleges and halls that hold them. In some colleges, Formals may be held every night, and are simply a second sitting of hall at which gowns are worn and grace is read. In other colleges, Formals may be special events to which guests from outside the college are frequently invited, often with themes and associated ents or "bops". In between these two extremes fall the great majority of colleges.

Editors Contribution

  1. formal

    A form of official authority.

    Formal authority is required for certain things in life like building a new build house.

    Submitted by MaryC on January 5, 2015  

Matched Categories

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'formal' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #1597

  2. Written Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'formal' in Written Corpus Frequency: #2780

  3. Adjectives Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'formal' in Adjectives Frequency: #199

How to pronounce formal?

How to say formal in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of formal in Chaldean Numerology is: 7

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of formal in Pythagorean Numerology is: 2

Examples of formal in a Sentence

  1. Steve Simon:

    Peng took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader, as we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng — privately — to discuss her situation.

  2. Mike Braun:

    I’ll make a formal announcement somewhere probably late November, early December.

  3. Ron Honberg:

    It would really be a travesty for the execution to proceed without at least addressing the issue in some sort of formal way.

  4. Anthony Costello:

    We've now set up a global response unit which brings together all people across WHO, in headquarters, in the regions, to deal with a formal response using all the lessons we've learned from the Ebola crisis, the reason it's a global concern is that we are worried that this could also spread back to other areas of the world where the population may not be immune.

  5. Stanley Cup-winning defenceman Slava Voynov:

    Earlier today, I notified the National Hockey League, the National Hockey League Players' Association and the Los Angeles Kings of my decision to immediately begin the formal process of returning to Russia with my family, i sincerely apologize to those in and around the game of hockey, who have been affected by my situation, and I also wish the players of the Los Angeles Kings success in the future.

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Translations for formal

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"formal." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/formal>.

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    equally skillful with each hand
    A proprietary
    B ambidextrous
    C incumbent
    D adscripted

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