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 Plus, the formality of court disappears on a video call. Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah still delaying jury trials because of COVID-19, creating a ‘constitutional crisis’," 8 Sep. 2020 There was also the formality of the presidential nominations and the roll call, overseen by Jason Rae of Glendale, the secretary of the Democratic National Committee. Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'With bravery. With unwavering faith.' Jill Biden lauds husband Joe Biden as he claims Democratic presidential nomination," 18 Aug. 2020 On the Park Board dais, French disregards the formality of other commissioners, speaking from the heart about youth recreation, diversity in parks and the park system’s police force. Miguel Otárola, Star Tribune, "Despite outcry, Londel French still sees parks as a refuge for homeless," 18 Aug. 2020 There is also confusion over the term ’probable,’ which Marrazzo on Thursday said was more of a formality at this point. Ramsey Archibald |, al, "Alabama keeps tinkering with its coronavirus data: Here’s where we stand," 4 Sep. 2020 To move into Phase 2, Palm Beach County would need approval from Gov. Ron DeSantis, which is essentially a formality at this point. Wells Dusenbury,, "Phase 2 reopening plan would begin next week in Palm Beach County," 1 Sep. 2020 But anyone who has watched the last three Portland games understands that the end of the Blazers season is now a formality. John Canzano, oregonlive, "Canzano: Trail Blazers window is closing again... and not just with this Lakers playoff series," 25 Aug. 2020 When passports were first used, projecting an air of formality in the graphic design was essential, in large part to convince border guards that your travel papers were legitimate and issued by an official body. Anne Quito, Quartz, "A quirky passport design contest evokes Taiwan’s search for national identity," 25 Aug. 2020 In practice, however, the process has been more of a formality. Sophie Cocke, ProPublica, "Obama and the Beach House Loopholes," 15 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for formality

Time Traveler

The first known use of formality was in 1597

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Statistics for formality

Last Updated

23 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Formality.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for formality


How to pronounce formality (audio)

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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