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 permission to use informal methods poses something of a counterbalance to the over-all increase in procedural formality that the regulations prescribe. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "How Concerning Are the Trump Administration’s New Title IX Regulations?," 16 May 2020 Once our 97-degree bodies were allowed inside, formalities were kept to a minimum. Beth Spotswood,, "A doctor checkup during pandemic is hardly routine," 13 May 2020 Soft-spoken, relaxed and accessible, Krishna represents a new leadership style for IBM, which has an entrenched culture of bureaucracy and formalities. Olivia Carville,, "IBM’s New CEO Is Mastermind Behind Cloud Strategy," 8 May 2020 Most of the sporting world considered the game a mere formality. Mike Kupper, Los Angeles Times, "Don Shula, the NFL’s all-time leader in coaching wins, dies at 90," 4 May 2020 Peter Zhou, a 25-year-old Cornell graduate working for a tech startup in Hangzhou, says some reopening restrictions in the city, known as a technology hub, have already become formalities. Fortune Staff, Fortune, "Inside China’s reopening: 7 personal stories of life after lockdown," 4 May 2020 Too much ritual and formality will generate restlessness for Gemini., "Horoscope," 17 Apr. 2020 Some of those rules are still enforced in workplaces that prize formality—fine-dining establishments, white-shoe law firms, Congress—including guidelines about hosiery, makeup, and women’s hairstyles. Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, "The Office Dress Code Should Never Come Back," 13 Apr. 2020 Even at the time, legislative leaders acknowledged the date was likely to change, its selection a formality as much as anything else. Andrew Oxford, azcentral, "House speaker: Arizona Legislature needs to delay its return to the Capitol," 3 Apr. 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

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Formality.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 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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