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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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 But that formality subsided when embarking passengers were greeted by bubbly staff handing out balloon animals and posing for selfies. Tara Mulholland, CNN, 12 Sep. 2021 The Bushnell concert was also marked by formality and ceremony. Christopher Arnott,, 11 Sep. 2021 But their exaggerated formality is more than a joke., 26 Aug. 2021 The legislation will have to be signed by India’s ceremonial president, a formality before becoming law, and will only apply prospectively from May 2012. Ashok Sharma, ajc, 10 Aug. 2021 These days, gratuitous formality feels stuffy, affected and out of touch. Todd Plummer, WSJ, 5 Aug. 2021 The vote must still be rubber-stamped by EU nations, but that’s likely a formality. Lorne Cook, The Christian Science Monitor, 9 June 2021 After his death, charges against Paul Murdaugh were dropped in August as a formality. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, 8 Sep. 2021 Or in the case of a citizen-ballot initiative, 4,668 signatures are needed plus a vote of council, though that's just a formality to approve ballot language. Sharon Coolidge, The Enquirer, 1 Sep. 2021

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

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The first known use of formality was in 1597

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Last Updated

24 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Formality.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on formality

Nglish: Translation of formality for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of formality for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about formality


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