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

Even the arrival of a future King or Queen came with rigid royal formality. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "How Meghan Markle's Pregnancy Announcement Compares to Kate Middleton and Princess Diana," 15 Oct. 2018 On the Democratic side, Begich’s nomination is all but a formality. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Live results for Alaska primary elections," 22 Aug. 2018 Royal weddings are typically a rigid, formal affair, with a ton of rules and formalities to follow. Amanda Mitchell, Marie Claire, "How Princess Eugenie's Wedding Broke Royal Protocol," 13 Oct. 2018 Whatever rhetorical contortions were necessary, whatever procedural formalities must be endured, whatever must be done to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court would be done. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Republicans don’t care what you think," 6 Oct. 2018 That formality will happen later this summer once the World Cup is over., "REVEALED: The Numbers Behind the New Deal Which Will Make De Gea the Highest Paid GK in the World," 19 June 2018 Too many miniskirts and spaghetti straps were trotting in, and a return to correct formality was in order. Laura Jacobs, Vanities, "A Brief History of Fascinators, the Haiku of Hats," 9 May 2018 The actual election in November is considered a formality in the District of Columbia, where the Republican Party holds little sway. Fox News, "Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser wins Democratic primary, near-certain second term," 19 June 2018 Once that is done, the council is expected to adopt a final budget in early June, largely a formality. Gordon R. Friedman,, "Portland council, with business tax hike, OK's $5.1 billion budget," 16 May 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

5 Dec 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).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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