from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Relating to or involving outward form or structure.
  • adj. Being or relating to essential form or constitution: a formal principle.
  • adj. Following or being in accord with accepted forms, conventions, or regulations: had little formal education; went to a formal party.
  • adj. Executed, carried out, or done in proper or regular form: a formal reprimand; a formal document.
  • adj. Characterized by strict or meticulous observation of forms; methodical: very formal in their business transactions.
  • adj. Stiffly ceremonious: a formal manner; a formal greeting; a formal bow to the monarch.
  • adj. Having the outward appearance but lacking in substance: a formal requirement that is usually ignored.
  • n. Something, such as a gown or social affair, that is formal in nature.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. being in accord with established forms
  • adj. official
  • adj. relating to the form or structure of something
  • adj. ceremonial
  • adj. organized; well-structured and planned
  • n. formalin
  • n. an evening gown
  • n. an event with a formal dress code

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Belonging to the form, shape, frame, external appearance, or organization of a thing.
  • adj. 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.
  • adj. Done in due form, or with solemnity; according to regular method; not incidental, sudden or irregular; express.
  • adj. Devoted to, or done in accordance with, forms or rules; punctilious; regular; orderly; methodical; of a prescribed form; exact; prim; stiff; ceremonious.
  • adj. Having the form or appearance without the substance or essence; external
  • adj. Dependent in form; conventional.
  • adj. Sound; normal.
  • n. See methylal.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • According to form, rule, or established order; according to the rules of law or custom; systematic; regular; legal.
  • Characterized by or made or done in strict or undue conformity to legal or conventional rules; notably conventional.
  • Observing or requiring strict observance of the rules of law, custom, or etiquette; strictly ceremonious; precise: exact to affectation; punctilious.
  • Regular or methodical in action.
  • Having conformity with the rules of art; scholastic; theoretical; also, rhetorical; academical; expressed in artificial language.
  • Relating to form merely, not to the substance or matter; having the form or appearance without the substance or essence; external; outward: as, a formal defect; formal duty; formal worship.
  • Embodied in a form; personified. The allusion in the extract is to the character of the Vice who, under many aliases, was an attendant on the Devil in the old moralities. See iniquity and vice.
  • Pertaining to or regarding the shape and appearance of a living being; characteristic; proper; sane.
  • Pertaining to form, in sense 8, especially in the Aristotelian use, opposed to materiȧl; essential; express. See phrases below.
  • Pertaining to those elements of cognition which according to Kant have their origin in the nature of the mind itself; universal and necessary.
  • Implicit; not active; latent; virtual.
  • n. A trade-name for formaldehyde.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. characteristic of or befitting a person in authority
  • adj. logically deductive
  • n. a gown for evening wear
  • adj. represented in simplified or symbolic form
  • n. a lavish dance requiring formal attire
  • adj. (of spoken and written language) adhering to traditional standards of correctness and without casual, contracted, and colloquial forms
  • adj. being in accord with established forms and conventions and requirements (as e.g. of formal dress)
  • adj. refined or imposing in manner or appearance; befitting a royal court


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Latin fōrmālis, from fōrma, shape.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English formel, from Old French formel, from Latin formalis, from forma ("form"); see form.


  • As a formal theory (in Husserl's sense of ˜formal™, i.e., as opposed to ˜material™) mereology is simply an attempt to lay down the general principles underlying the relationships between an entity and its constituent parts, whatever the nature of the entity, just as set theory is an attempt to lay down the principles underlying the relationships between a set and its members.

    Wild Dreams Of Reality, 3

  • In this book, the term formal thought disorder is used to refer to the aphasialike utterances of patients.

    The Neuropsychiatric Guide to Modern Everyday Psychiatry

  • But so keen for symmetry, for all the term formal beauty implies, is Chopin, that seldom does his morbidity madden, his voluptuousness poison.

    Chopin : the Man and His Music

  • Well, with China, we have a, what we call formal bilaterals, which is just I sit down with the Chinese Foreign Minister, there are officials there, there are note takers and record keepers; it's a formal meeting.

    Interview with David Reyne and Kim Watkins, 9am with David and Kim - Transcript - The Hon Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs

  • This claim is anachronistic in that it presupposes Aristotle's own novel view that a complete explanation must encompass four factors: what he called the formal, material, efficient, and final causes.

    Presocratic Philosophy

  • M. O'BRIEN: Ben Hatfield, who is the chief executive officer of the company which owns the Sago, number one, said as he tried to explain what happened that the company never made what he called a formal announcement.

    CNN Transcript Jan 4, 2006

  • If the formal is allowed here, wouldn't 'Usted desea algún agua' be the question of 'Do you want some agua?

    a question

  • There are what he refers to as formal numbers, one for each numeral; these are the (Platonic) Forms for numbers.


  • At length, these new or 'modern' philosophers abandoned the question of Realism, and the relation of thought to Reality, in favour of a system of pure logic or dialectics, dealing with the mere forms and expressions of thought, the formal analysis of ideas and words, the mutual relation of propositions and conclusions -- in short, all that constitutes what we call formal logic, in its widest acceptation.

    Life of Luther

  • MARTIN: And you make the point that among the African-American community, for example, that one doesn't have to have what you called formal knowledge producing credentials to be a member of the intelligentsia.

    NPR Topics: News


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