for·​mal·​i·​ty | \ fȯr-ˈma-lə-tē How to pronounce formality (audio) \
plural formalities

Definition of formality

1 : compliance with formal or conventional rules : ceremony
2 : the quality or state of being formal
3 : an established form or procedure that is required or conventional the interview was just a formality

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Did You Know?

Formal behavior follows the proper forms or customs, and informal behavior feels free to ignore them. The formality of a dinner party is indicated by such formalities as invitations, required dress, and full table settings. Legal formalities, or technicalities, may turn out to be all-important even if they often seem minor. America requires fewer formalities than many other countries (in Germany, for example, you may know someone for years before using his or her first name), but even in relaxed situations Americans may be observing invisible formalities.

Examples of formality in a Sentence

Her use of old-fashioned language lends an air of formality to her writing. He failed to appreciate the formality of the occasion. They haven't approved the loan yet, but that's just a mere formality.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The government will be formally sworn in on Thursday morning, and must face a confidence vote, expected later this week, which is seen as a formality because the three parties control a majority of Parliament. New York Times, "With New Cabinet, Italy’s Head-Spinning Political Turmoil Ends, for Now," 4 Sep. 2019 Most of the heavy lifting in terms of who will be on the roster is complete, with the final three practices and Thursday night’s exhibition finale in Seattle mere formalities. Jerry Mcdonald, The Mercury News, "Raiders mailbag: Can Derek Carr and Antonio Brown make up for lost time?," 24 Aug. 2019 The grill cook bobs and weaves like a prizefighter around the open flames, and a young staff makes up for its lack of formality with a wealth of congeniality. Mike Sutter,, "Review: Kindling Texas Kitchen in Cibolo breaks the rules for Texas food," 1 Aug. 2019 As such, agreeing to a transfer fee with Ajax was seen as a formality., "Report: De Ligt's Transfer to Juventus Stalls Over Fee; Hope for Barcelona?," 5 July 2019 Learning Japanese presents challenges that are absent from learning other languages, with many of those linked to the importance of formality. Isabella Steger, Quartz, "A less polite version of Japanese is helping foreigners stay safe during disasters," 27 June 2019 Hours after last year’s summit, in Quebec, Trump abruptly withdrew from the final joint communique — previously a largely symbolic formality — in a fit of pique because he was offended by Trudeau’s post-summit news conference. Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times, "Discord dominates as Trump and other leaders head to G-7 summit," 22 Aug. 2019 Germany made the wording of an apology a subject of the negotiations, and claims reparations are a no-go on account of legal formalities. Quartz Africa, "Even after acknowledging the Namibia genocide of WWI, Germany still hasn’t learned the key lesson," 10 Aug. 2019 The bill becomes a law once it is signed by the president, considered a formality. Sugam Pokharel, CNN, "Indian parliament criminalizes Muslim practice of instant divorce," 31 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'formality.' 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 formality

1597, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for formality

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for formality

The first known use of formality was in 1597

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More Definitions for formality



English Language Learners Definition of formality

: a formal quality
: something that is required or usual but that has little true meaning or importance
: a formal part, activity, etc.


for·​mal·​i·​ty | \ fȯr-ˈma-lə-tē How to pronounce formality (audio) \
plural formalities

Kids Definition of formality

1 : the quality or state of being formal the formality of the occasion
2 : an established way of doing something wedding formalities

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Comments on formality

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


to spread over or through

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