being in accordance with the usual requirements, customs, etc.; conventional:to pay one's formal respects.
marked by form or ceremony:a formal occasion.
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.
Clothingrequiring a type of dress suitable for such occasions:a formal dance.
observant of conventional requirements of behavior, procedure, etc., as persons; ceremonious.
excessively ceremonious:a manner that was formal and austere.
being a matter of form only; perfunctory:We expected more than just formal courtesy.
made or done in accordance with procedures that ensure validity:a formal authorization.
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.
being in accordance with prescribed or customary forms:a formal siege.
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.
acquired in school; academic:He had little formal training in economics.
symmetrical or highly organized:a formal garden.
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.
pertaining to form.
[Aristotelianism.]not material; essential.
Philosophy[Logic.]See formal logic.
pertaining to the form, shape, or mode of a thing, esp. as distinguished from the substance:formal writing, bereft of all personality.
being such merely in appearance or name; nominal:a formal head of the government having no actual powers.
(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.
a dance, ball, or other social occasion that requires formalwear.
Clothingan evening gown.
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 UnabridgedFormal,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.