WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2018
for•mal1 /ˈfɔrməl/USA pronunciation   adj. 
  1. being in accordance with accepted customs;
    conventional:[before a noun]General Lee offered General Grant his sword as a formal act of surrender.
  2. marked by form or ceremony:The reception was a formal occasion.
  3. Clothingdesigned for wear or use at elaborate ceremonial or social events:The invitation specified formal attire.
  4. Clothingrequiring dress suitable for elaborate social events:a formal dance.
  5. too interested in ceremony;
    decorous:The boss is too formal on most occasions.
  6. being a matter of form only:more than just formal courtesy.
  7. made or done in accordance with procedures that make sure something is valid or proper:got the formal authorization.
  8. of, relating to, or emphasizing the organization, form, or shape in the parts of a work of art, writing, or music:[before a noun]The class analyzed the formal structure of the poem.
  9. obtained in school;
    academic:[before a noun]received a formal education.
  10. Linguisticsof or relating to language use typical of impersonal and official situations, obeying standards of correctness, and the avoidance of colloquialisms:formal English.
  11. being such merely in appearance or name:The queen was only the formal head of state.

n. [countable]
  1. a dance or other social occasion that requires formal clothes.
  2. Clothingan evening gown:spilling wine on her formal.
for•mal•ly, adv. See -form-.

WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2018
for•mal1  (fôrməl),USA pronunciation adj. 
  1. being in accordance with the usual requirements, customs, etc.;
    conventional:to pay one's formal respects.
  2. marked by form or ceremony:a formal occasion.
  3. Clothingdesigned for wear or use at occasions or events marked by elaborate ceremony or prescribed social observance:The formal attire included tuxedos and full-length gowns.
  4. Clothingrequiring a type of dress suitable for such occasions:a formal dance.
  5. observant of conventional requirements of behavior, procedure, etc., as persons;
  6. excessively ceremonious:a manner that was formal and austere.
  7. being a matter of form only;
    perfunctory:We expected more than just formal courtesy.
  8. made or done in accordance with procedures that ensure validity:a formal authorization.
  9. of, pertaining to, or emphasizing the organization or composition of the constituent elements in a work of art perceived separately from its subject matter:a formal approach to painting; the formal structure of a poem.
  10. being in accordance with prescribed or customary forms:a formal siege.
  11. Show Business[Theat.](of a stage setting) generalized and simplified in design, esp. of architectural elements, and serving as a permanent set for a play irrespective of changes in location.
  12. acquired in school;
    academic:He had little formal training in economics.
  13. symmetrical or highly organized:a formal garden.
  14. Linguisticsof, reflecting, or noting a usage of language in which syntax, pronunciation, etc., adhere to traditional standards of correctness and usage is characterized by the absence of casual, contracted, and colloquial forms:The paper was written in formal English.
  15. Philosophy
    • pertaining to form.
    • [Aristotelianism.]not material;
  16. Philosophy[Logic.]See  formal logic. 
  17. pertaining to the form, shape, or mode of a thing, esp. as distinguished from the substance:formal writing, bereft of all personality.
  18. being such merely in appearance or name;
    nominal:a formal head of the government having no actual powers.
  19. Mathematics
    • (of a proof ) in strict logical form with a justification for every step.
    • (of a calculation) correct in form;
      made with strict justification for every step.
    • Mathematics(of a calculation, derivation, representation, or the like) of or pertaining to manipulation of symbols without regard to their meaning.

  1. a dance, ball, or other social occasion that requires formalwear.
  2. Clothingan evening gown.

  1. Clothingin formal attire:We're supposed to go formal.
  • Latin fōrmālis. See form, -al1
  • Middle English formal, formel 1350–1400
    • 2.See corresponding entry in Unabridged Formal, academic, conventional may have either favorable or unfavorable implications.
      Formal may mean in proper form, or may imply excessive emphasis on empty form. In the favorable sense,
      academic applies to scholars or higher institutions of learning;
      it may, however, imply slavish conformance to mere rules, or to belief in impractical theories.
      Conventional, in a favorable sense, applies to desirable conformity with accepted conventions or customs;
      but it more often is applied to arbitrary, forced, or meaningless conformity.
    • 5.See corresponding entry in Unabridged conforming, conformist.
    • 6.See corresponding entry in Unabridged punctilious.
    • 8.See corresponding entry in Unabridged official.

for•mal2  (fôrmal),USA pronunciation n. [Chem.]
  1. Chemistrymethylal.
  • from formaldehyde 1895–1900

Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

formal /ˈfɔːməl/ adj
  1. of, according to, or following established or prescribed forms, conventions, etc: a formal document
  2. characterized by observation of conventional forms of ceremony, behaviour, dress, etc: a formal dinner
  3. methodical, precise, or stiff
  4. suitable for occasions organized according to conventional ceremony: formal dress
  5. denoting or characterized by idiom, vocabulary, etc, used by educated speakers and writers of a language
  6. acquired by study in academic institutions: a formal education
  7. regular or symmetrical in form: a formal garden
  8. of or relating to the appearance, form, etc, of something as distinguished from its substance
  9. logically deductive: formal proof
  10. denoting a second-person pronoun in some languages used when the addressee is a stranger, social superior, etc: in French the pronoun ``vous'' is formal, while ``tu'' is informal
Etymology: 14th Century: from Latin formālis

ˈformally adv ˈformalness n

'formal' also found in these entries:
Collocations: the [spring, winter] formal, a formal [complaint, trial, application, offer, request, invitation], her first formal, more...

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