AskDefine | Define formal

Dictionary Definition

formal adj
1 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" [ant: informal]
2 characteristic of or befitting a person in authority; "formal duties"; "an official banquet"
3 (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" [ant: informal]
4 represented in simplified or symbolic form [syn: conventional, schematic]
5 logically deductive; "formal proof"
6 refined or imposing in manner or appearance; befitting a royal court; "a courtly gentleman" [syn: courtly, elegant, stately]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. being in accord with established forms
  2. official
  3. relating to the form or structure of something
  4. ceremonial


Related terms


being in accord with established forms
relating to the form or structure of something


  1. formalin



Crimean Tatar


formalis < forma - form.




Useinov-Mireev 2002}}



Extensive Definition

The term formal has a number of uses, including:




  • relating to form, i.e. appearance rather than essence.
    • relating to Formalism, i.e. emphasis on form over content or meaning.
  • formal logic logical argument based only on the form and not on the meaning.
  • Formal cause, Aristotle's intrinsic, determining cause.


  • formal power series, a generalization of power series without requiring convergence, used in combinatorics;
  • formal calculation, a calculation which is systematic, but without a rigorous justification;
  • formal set theory as opposed to naive set theory;
  • formal derivative, an operation on elements of a polynomial ring which mimics the form of the derivative from calculus.

Logic and Language

  • formal system, an abstract means of generating inferences in a formal language;
    • formal language, comprising the symbolic "words" or "sentences" of a formal system;
    • formal proof, a fully rigorous proof as is possible only in a formal system.

Computer science

See also the Language section of Mathematics, above


See also the Language section of Mathematics, above


formal in German: Formalität
formal in French: Formel
formal in Italian: Formalità
formal in Dutch: Formeel
formal in Simple English: Formal

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

High-Church, Latinate, accepted, acknowledged, adjectival, admitted, adverbial, anatomic, approved, architectonic, architectural, arranged, attributive, authorized, awkward, baccalaureate service, baptismal, being done, bloated, bombastic, businesslike, byname, celebration, ceremonial, ceremonious, ceremony, chivalric, chivalrous, cognominal, comme il faut, commencement, conditional, confining, conformable, conjunctive, constructional, conventional, conventionalized, convocation, copulative, correct, courtly, cramped, cumbrous, customary, de rigueur, decent, decorous, definite, demure, dignified, diminutive, distant, dress uniform, earnest, edificial, elephantine, empty formality, epithetic, established, eucharistic, evening dress, exact, exacting, exercise, exercises, explicit, express, extrinsic, fixed, flatulent, forced, formal dress, formalist, formalistic, formality, formalized, formational, formative, formulaic, formular, formulary, frowning, full dress, function, functional, gallant, gassy, glossematic, graduation, graduation exercises, grammatic, grandiloquent, grave, grim, grim-faced, grim-visaged, guinde, habitual, halting, harmonious, heavy, honorific, hypocoristic, impersonal, in hand, in name only, inaugural, inauguration, inflated, inflexible, initiation, inkhorn, intransitive, knightly, labored, lawful, leaden, legal, legalistic, limited, linking, liturgic, liturgistic, liturgy, long-faced, lumbering, meet, methodical, modal, morphological, morphotic, mummery, nominal, nominative, normal, observance, office, official, old-fashioned, old-world, ordered, orderly, organic, organismal, orthodox, ostensible, outward, participial, paschal, pedantic, performance, plastic, pompous, ponderous, pontifical, postpositional, precise, prepositional, prescribed, pretended, prim, pro forma, professed, pronominal, proper, punctilious, purported, quasi, received, recognized, regalia, regular, religious ceremony, reserved, right, rigid, rite, rite de passage, rite of passage, ritual, ritualistic, routine, sacramental, sacramentarian, sedate, seemly, self-called, self-christened, self-important, self-styled, serious, service, sesquipedalian, set, so-called, sober, sober-minded, sobersided, soi-disant, solemn, solemnity, solemnization, somber, square, staid, standard, starched, stately, steady, stiff, stilted, stone-faced, straight, straight-faced, strait-laced, straitened, strict, structural, stuffy, stylized, substantive, substructural, superficial, superstructural, supposed, surface, swollen, symmetrical, syntactic, systematic, tagmemic, tails, tectonic, textural, thoughtful, titular, traditional, transitive, tumid, turgid, tuxedo, unbending, unchanging, uniform, unsmiling, unwieldy, usual, verbal, weighty, well-ordered, well-regulated, would-be
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