for·​mal·​ism | \ ˈfȯr-mə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce formalism (audio) \

Definition of formalism

1 : the practice or the doctrine of strict adherence to prescribed or external forms (as in religion or art) also : an instance of this
2 : marked attention to arrangement, style, or artistic means (as in art or literature) usually with corresponding de-emphasis of content

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Other Words from formalism

formalist \ ˈfȯr-​mə-​list How to pronounce formalist (audio) \ noun or adjective
formalistic \ ˌfȯr-​mə-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce formalistic (audio) \ adjective

Examples of formalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The papers, which ran to more than 500 pages, were written in a novel formalism and contained many new terms and definitions. Quanta Magazine, "Hope Rekindled for Perplexing Proof," 21 Dec. 2015 In a world where genre and formalism were increasingly the reigning critical deities, Bergman's zeal for rich emotion, for dramatizing philosophical concerns and engaging with profound human questions seemed outdated at best. Kenneth Turan,, "Reconnecting with one-time cinema god Ingmar Bergman, subject of a major L.A. retrospective," 2 May 2018 The formalism of Thom Browne’s suiting might not seem analogous to the freedom and fury of the sports world, but Browne’s great strength as a designer is the ability to seamlessly shift between strict and spirited. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Thom Browne’s New Golf Capsule Collection Is a Stroke Above the Rest," 30 Oct. 2018 From one point of view, quantum physics is just a set of formalisms, a useful tool kit. James Gleick, New York Times, "What Does Quantum Physics Actually Tell Us About the World?," 8 May 2018 Aharonov’s approach is called the two-state-vector formalism (TSVF) of quantum mechanics, and postulates quantum events are in some sense determined by quantum states not just in the past—but also in the future. Philip Ball, Scientific American, "Quantum Physics May Be Even Spookier Than You Think," 21 May 2018 Salterini says contemporary dance is the bringing together the formalism and bravado of ballet, the earthiness of modern dance and the rhythms and syncopation of jazz dance. Diana Dunbar, miamiherald, "Dance Now! Miami: A sense of tranquility and communality | Miami Herald," 17 Apr. 2018 The advance laid the groundwork for the entire formalism of black hole thermodynamics. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Stephen Hawking, who shined a light on black holes, dies at age 76," 14 Mar. 2018 Notwithstanding such overreaches, this is an impressively rigorous exercise, in which the director's sober formalism finds a kindred spirit in his leading lady's studied, secretive restraint. Guy Lodge,, "'Hannah' review: Charlotte Rampling embodies loneliness of a woman left behind," 22 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'formalism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of formalism

1839, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

19 Jun 2019

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The first known use of formalism was in 1839

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English Language Learners Definition of formalism

: a method, style, way of thinking, etc., that shows very careful attention to traditional forms and rules

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with formalism

Britannica English: Translation of formalism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about formalism

Comments on formalism

What made you want to look up formalism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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