for·mu·la | \ˈfȯr-myə-lə \
plural formulas or formulae\ˈfȯr-myə-ˌlē, -ˌlī \

Definition of formula 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a set form of words for use in a ceremony or ritual

b : a conventionalized statement intended to express some fundamental truth or principle especially as a basis for negotiation or action

2a(1) : recipe The product is made using a secret formula that the company refuses to reveal.

(2) : prescription

b : a milk mixture or substitute for feeding an infant

3a : a general fact, rule, or principle expressed in usually mathematical symbols

b : a symbolic expression of the chemical composition or constitution of a substance

c : a group of symbols (such as letters and numbers) associated to express facts or data (such as the number and kinds of teeth in the jaw) concisely

d : a combination of signs in a logical calculus

4 : a customary or set form or method allowing little room for originality All her books were written according to a familiar formula.



Definition of formula (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or being an open-wheel open-cockpit rear-engine racing car conforming to prescribed specifications as to size, weight, and engine displacement

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Other Words from formula


formulaic \ˌfȯr-myə-ˈlā-ik \ adjective
formulaically \ˌfȯr-myə-ˈlā-ə-k(ə-)lē \ adverb

Examples of formula in a Sentence


His investment strategy is based on a simple formula. This has proven to be a winning formula. The product is made using a secret formula that the company refuses to reveal. The formula for water is H2O. infants drinking formula instead of their mother's milk
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

South Africa’s Gini index—a formula for measuring economic inequality—is now almost the world’s highest. Peter Godwin, WSJ, "Mandela’s Troubled Legacy," 13 July 2018 The Hourglass Caution Extreme Lash Mascara doesn't have the right formula for this trick, though. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Hourglass's New Caution Extreme Lash Mascara Is Like a Lash Lift in a Tube," 10 July 2018 Trump administration officials said they were forced to make the cuts after a federal court in New Mexico ruled in February that the formula for calculating risk adjustment could not use a statewide average premium. Andrea K. Mcdaniels,, "Maryland insurers say Trump Administration to cut health payments destabilizes market," 9 July 2018 In Texas, members dedicated park benches at Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M universities, collected $19,008 to purchase baby formula for L.I.F.E. Houston and partnered with the city to help revitalize neighborhoods. Elizabeth Myong, Houston Chronicle, "AKA sorority sisters serve the Houston community," 7 July 2018 In 2016, Walker cut the size of the check in half, ignoring a formula in state law for calculating the checks. Becky Bohrer, Anchorage Daily News, "Former Sen. Mark Begich’s entry causes angst in Alaska governor’s race," 4 July 2018 In 2016, Walker cut the size of the check in half, ignoring a formula in state law for calculating the checks. Washington Post, "Ex-US senator’s entry causes angst in Alaska governor’s race," 3 July 2018 The company has more than 20 formulas for its elixirs. Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bittercube, moving to the west side, will gain a bar, store and bigger production area," 27 June 2018 Despite every footwear brand's attempts right now to find the magic formula for a hit sneaker, none exists. Tyler Watamanuk, GQ, "The Nike React Element 87 Is the Swoosh's Next Hit Sneaker," 27 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'formula.' 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 formula


1618, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1951, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for formula


Latin, diminutive of forma form


see formula entry 1

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Learn More about formula

Phrases Related to formula

magic formula

Statistics for formula

Last Updated

20 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for formula

The first known use of formula was in 1618

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More Definitions for formula



English Language Learners Definition of formula

: a plan or method for doing, making, or achieving something

: a list of the ingredients used for making something (such as a medicine or a drink)

mathematics : a general fact or rule expressed in letters and symbols


for·mu·la | \ˈfȯr-myə-lə \

Kids Definition of formula

1 : a direction giving amounts of the substances for the preparation of something (as a medicine)

2 : an established form or method a formula for success

3 : a milk mixture or substitute for feeding a baby

4 : a general fact or rule expressed in symbols We learned a formula for finding the size of an angle.

5 : an expression in symbols giving the makeup of a substance The chemical formula for water is H2O.


for·mu·la | \ˈfȯr-myə-lə \
plural formulas or formulae\-ˌlē, -ˌlī \

Medical Definition of formula 

1a : a recipe or prescription giving method and proportions of ingredients for the preparation of some material (as a medicine)

b : a milk mixture or substitute (as one containing soybean protein) for feeding an infant

2 : a symbolic expression showing the composition or constitution of a chemical substance and consisting of symbols for the elements present and subscripts to indicate the relative or total number of atoms present in a molecule the formula for ethyl alcohol is C2H5OH — see empirical formula, molecular formula, structural formula

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More from Merriam-Webster on formula

Spanish Central: Translation of formula

Nglish: Translation of formula for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on formula

What made you want to look up formula? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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