for·​mu·​la | \ ˈfȯr-myə-lə How to pronounce formula (audio) \
plural formulas or formulae\ ˈfȯr-​myə-​ˌlē How to pronounce formulae (audio) , -​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.
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

Examples of formula in a Sentence

Noun 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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The formula was based on $50,000 per admission, according to HHS. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "U of L Health and Baptist Health get $42.5 million in new round of COVID-19 relief money," 1 Aug. 2020 Discovery’s Body Cam, another spin on the gonzo-cop formula, has not aired since the end of June; on social media, fans await news of its fate with dread. Stephen Kearse, The Atlantic, "The End of The Fictional Cop," 31 July 2020 Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia were among the jurisdictions deemed to be engaged in egregious voting discrimination by the Act's coverage formula. N'dea Yancey-bragg, USA TODAY, "Voting Rights Act was John Lewis' life's work. 55 years later, minority voter suppression remains," 31 July 2020 Programming an orchestral season is a complicated formula of personal preferences of artistic directors, conductors, solo artists, funders, and audiences. Kendra Nordin Beato, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘Our voice matters’: Promoting female composers in classical music," 29 July 2020 The most famous trade secret is the Coca-Cola formula. David S. Levine, STAT, "Covid-19 should spark a reexamination of trade secrets’ stranglehold on information," 10 July 2020 There is no formula for how to reopen schools safely, though school officials are developing strategies for keeping kids separated as much as possible. Anchorage Daily News, "With coronavirus science still iffy, US schools hope to reopen for 56.6 million K-12 students," 10 July 2020 That formula helped Hyundai win a generation of buyers with the Tiburon, another inexpensive small car amenable to upgrades on a budget. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "2020 Hyundai Venue SUV packs features and value into small package," 9 July 2020 This priming sunscreen is a hydrating formula that has a slew of skin-protecting ingredients. Erica Metzger, Better Homes & Gardens, "5 Hybrid Face Primers That Sub As Skincare," 8 July 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of formula


1618, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1951, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for formula

Noun and Adjective

Latin, diminutive of forma form

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about formula

Time Traveler for formula

Time Traveler

The first known use of formula was in 1618

See more words from the same year

Statistics for formula

Last Updated

6 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Formula.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for formula


How to pronounce formula (audio)

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 How to pronounce formula (audio) \

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 How to pronounce formula (audio) \
plural formulas or formulae\ -​ˌlē How to pronounce formulae (audio) , -​ˌlī How to pronounce formulae (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!