for·mal·i·ty | \fȯr-ˈma-lə-tē \
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

With their first two wins in the bag, Uruguay qualified for the knockout round, and their third match — against Russia — felt more like a formality. Candace Rose Rardon, Longreads, "The Country Where Fútbol Comes First," 10 July 2018 Barefoot and beachy on her big day in 1998, Crawford was the picture of bliss, trading the formality of a billowing crepe gown and voluminous updo for sheer, unfettered simplicity. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Cindy Crawford's Throwback Wedding Picture Proves Beach Waves Are a Timeless Win," 30 May 2018 In this particular case, the letter is just a formality. Keith Pompey,, "Jonah Bolden expected to join Sixers in Vegas for summer league," 4 July 2018 Lawrence himself dispenses with the usual formalities. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, "How 'Handmaid's Tale' Just Set the Stage for "Powerful" Season 2 Finale," 4 July 2018 His enshrinement as the 2004 J.G. Spink Taylor Award winner at the Baseball Hall of Fame was a formality. Bob Ryan,, "Remembering my start, 50 years ago, at the Globe," 9 June 2018 The new government still needs to win a confidence vote in parliament, but at this stage that was a formality. Author: Jason Horowitz, Anchorage Daily News, "Italy’s anti-EU populist parties get green light to govern," 31 May 2018 In Sidney, that distinction is mostly a formality: The cutoff is about $37,000 for a household of four, Johnson-Bennett says, which includes many of the families in the village. Christopher Flavelle,, "America’s Last-Ditch Climate Strategy of Retreat Isn’t Going So Well," 2 May 2018 Before the Wizards can make the signing official, Howard's representatives must negotiate a buyout from the Nets to become a free agent, a step that's considered a formality., "Digest (July 6): Wizards expected to sign Dwight Howard," 6 July 2018

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

10 Oct 2018

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 \
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).


one that holds something together

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